Army minister makes ultimate sacrifice for country

Capt. Dale Goetz, shown in Iraq in this undated photo, was killed in Afghanistan in August, along with four other soldiers.
Capt. Dale Goetz, shown in Iraq in this undated photo, was killed in Afghanistan in August, along with four other soldiers. (Maranatha Baptist Bible College/associated Press)
  Enlarge Photo    
By David Zucchino
Sunday, January 2, 2011

COLORADO SPRINGS - When Christy Goetz's husband, Dale, told her at the outset of the war in Iraq that he wanted to join the Army to become a chaplain, she rebelled.

"I told him: 'You're not going over there and getting killed,' " Christy Goetz recalled. "I mean, he's my honey. I love him. I don't want anything to happen to him."

Dale Goetz, a Baptist minister, signed up anyway in January 2004. Before long he was Chaplain Goetz, ministering to troops in Iraq later that year and the next. He volunteered for a second combat tour last summer, in Afghanistan.

"I prayed on it and realized that this is what God wants him to do," Christy Goetz recalled. "Who am I to stand in God's way?"

She knew what every chaplain's wife knows: They may carry holy books instead of rifles, but they're still troops, and they still tread in harm's way.

On Aug. 30, a chaplain and another soldier knocked on the door of the tan split-level Dale and Christy bought here last year - the first house they had ever owned.

Capt. Dale Goetz was dead at 43, the first chaplain killed in combat since the Vietnam War.

He was on a trip that day to conduct services and counsel soldiers at several remote combat outposts in Kandahar province when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle. Goetz and four other soldiers were killed.

His soldiers say the chaplain died doing what he loved - talking to them, praying with them, helping counsel them through long days and nights of fear and dread. He had been carrying CDs for them to record messages to their families.

"He was committed to his soldiers - that was his gift," said the Rev. Jason Parker of High Country Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, which Goetz and his family officially joined the day he left for Afghanistan.

Goetz had told his wife that the troops who needed him most were under fire at small, exposed outposts. He felt compelled to visit them, said his chaplain's assistant, Spec. Joshuwa Clare. "Circulating the battlefield," Clare called it.

"Chaplains don't sit around the big bases waiting for soldiers to come to them," said Chaplain Carleton Birch, a lieutenant colonel with the Office of the Chief of Chaplains. "They go out to where the soldiers are."


CONTINUED     1              >

© 2011 The Washington Post Company