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September 2nd, 2010
07:40 PM ET

For first time in Iraq or Afghanistan wars, U.S. military chaplain is killed



Editor's Note: CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Eric Marrapodi and CNN Producer Paul Vercammen filed this report.

For the first time in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a U.S. military chaplain has been killed in action.

On August 30, U.S. Army chaplain Capt. Dale Goetz, 43, was killed in the Arghandab River Valley in Afghanistan, when the convoy he was traveling in was struck by an improvised explosive device, according to the Department of Defense. Four other soldiers also were killed in the attack.

Goetz was serving as the battalion chaplain for the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment.

Friends and co-workers said Goetz was a dedicated father and chaplain. He leaves behind a wife and three sons.

The Army's chief of chaplains, Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver, said in a statement, "Dale was a selfless servant of God, a devoted husband and father, a strong American patriot, and a compassionate spiritual leader whose love for Soldiers was only surpassed by his firm commitment to living his calling as a United States Army Chaplain."

Senior Pastor Stuart Schwenke of First Baptist Church in Oelwein, Iowa, attended seminary with Goetz. Schwenke said they talked at least once a month and he had talked to Goetz just days before he deployed in July.

"He was not a drill sergeant," Schwenke said. "He did not jab a finger in your chest. He put a hand on your shoulder and got you to understand what was going on in your life. Dale helped you to get things right with God and other people."

Goetz's tour in Afghanistan was his second deployment. He joined the Army in January 2000, and in 2004 he spent a year serving in Iraq.

He loved his sons and hated being away from them, Schwenke said.

"Dale was an outdoorsman and a sportsman. He would take the boys into the woods and show them the trails. He would take them fishing. Dale wanted his boys to grow up to be men," Schwenke said.

According to the Defense Department, the other soldiers killed in the attack were Staff Sgt. Jesse Infante, 30, Staff Sgt. Kevin J. Kessler, 32, Staff Sgt. Matthew J. West, and Pfc. Chad D. Clements, 26. All five were stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado.

CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

Editor's Note: Here is the Army's Chief of Chaplains Douglas Carver's full statement:

It is with my deepest sympathy and utmost respect that I announce to our Chaplain Corps that Chaplain (CPT) Dale A. Goetz was killed in action in Afghanistan on August 30, 2010 while serving as the Battalion Chaplain for 1-66th Armor Battalion, 4th Infantry Division. Dale was one of five Soldiers killed by an Improvised Explosive Device while traveling in a convoy near Kandahar Province. Chaplain Goetz is survived by his wife, Christy, and by their three sons- Landon, Caleb and Joel.

Chaplain Goetz is the first military chaplain killed in action in Iraq or Afghanistan. Dale was a selfless servant of God, a devoted husband and father, a strong American patriot, and a compassionate spiritual leader whose love for Soldiers was only surpassed by his firm commitment to living his calling as a United States Army Chaplain.

Please join with me in prayer for the Goetz family as we mourn with them in the loss of Dale, our fellow Soldier and Unit Ministry Team member.

Let us also strive to honor Dale's sacrifice with a continuing bold commitment to ensure the finest religious support and pastoral care possible for our beloved Soldiers and their Families.

May God bless the Goetz Family and the Families of all our Fallen Soldiers; and, may God bless our Army and the United States of America.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Afghanistan • Baptist • Christianity • Colorado • Death • Faith Now • Military • United States

soundoff (121 Responses)
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  4. 155round

    Would he have turned his back on a gay soldier? RIP Chaplain!

    November 30, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
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    September 7, 2010 at 9:21 am |
  6. INF SSG

    As I have read through these post my blood pressure became a rollercoaster ride. It is wonderful to see people understand the role of the Chaplin in the service and it angers me to see the ignorance of others. As a 13yr Army Vet seeing multiple tours of duty I can tell you that regardless of a Soldiers religion the Chaplin is a valuable asset on the battlefield; beside the obvious of practicing faith, the Chaplin's MAIN role is to counsel, befriend and bring emotional support to battle weary Soldiers. During my tours I turned to Chappy to help my troops through times personal hardship such as when we lost a brother, or got bad news from home. When you are stuck out on a mountain in the middle of nowhere a Chaplin may be "branched" a certain religion, but the house of worship s/he maintain is universal.

    Chaplains are purely a NON-COMBATANT role; they are NOT SOLDIERS-IN-DISGUISE. That comment sickened me. These men pray, in their own way, for the safety of their enemy. With that said Chaplains brave the battlefield to visit FOBs, COBs, and other outlaying posts to check on Soldiers mental and spiritual well being; only wearing body armor, without a weapon and trusting in the men protecting him. Chaplains at that point become "VIP" or "Asset" that must be protected at all times; I have had the fortunate experience to do this a number of times. During one of these missions my crew was attacked with an IED initiated ambush, during that that fight we did our job coming out with just a few “scratches” and Chappy stayed cool and calm the entire time. When we arrived at our destination he thanked us and asked permission from each Soldier to bestow a blessing upon them. Everyone said yes.

    During my tours I have lead Muslims, Christians, Jews, Wiccans, Atheists and Gnostics on the battlefields of Afghanistan. An individual religion was never pushed on my men, nor did one of them have a problem with the Chaplin that was assigned to us. ALL of them visited and practiced their own faith in the Chapel that was built for us.

    To the Chaplin Corps, “The God Squad” or whatever other nickname your unit has given you, thank you for being there. Internally, within our profession as Soldiers, this has not been said enough.

    September 7, 2010 at 9:06 am |
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    September 6, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
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    September 6, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  9. anthony doyle

    what on earth is a man who professes to be a 'christian' doing in the 'army'. Its a sick perversion of christs teaching of love. A faith recieved third or fourth hand from the middle east warped in the us beyond recoqnition. Tragic and pathetic.

    September 6, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  10. trib2874

    Any death is sad, whether it's a chaplain, a soldier, or an innocent civilian.
    But those who live by the sword can also die by the sword. Chaplains are paid by the state to tell young soldiers that it's allright with Jesus or God for them to kill the 'enemy', which is whomever the state says it is. Chaplains are paid consciences; they exist to provide a religious rational for the act of occupation and killing. His death is noteworthy only to the extent that every death is noteworthy.

    September 4, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
    • aqui2lini

      How right you are trib, I fully agree with you. The chaplain is a disguised soldier, as true christians never go to war, Jesus loved even his enemy.

      September 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • Kate

      Chaplains are the only members of the armed forces that don't go out armed.

      At all.

      They're not there to fight.

      September 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • phoenix

      really? have you even read the Bible? just asking...cause if you haven't read Joshua or Judges you may want to before you view God as a God of "never goes to war." then if you say "well thats the old testament, Jesus hadnt come yet, read John 1:1. much love

      September 23, 2011 at 6:19 am |
  11. Ish Escobar

    I had the absoulute honor of serving with Cpt. Goetz during my deployment in 2004-2005 to Iraq. He was a good man and a great person to talk to about god or anything on our minds. I will miss you and will never forget you. may you rest in peace. 3/21 infantry "Gimlets" duty first!

    September 4, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  12. Stephen

    There is nothing 'improvised' about the 'explosive devices' that are killing our soldiers. They are sophisticated, armor piercing bombs that are manufactured in Iran by the Revolutionary Guard and smuggled into Afghanistan and Iraq where they are assembled and planted. This happens with the full knowledge and support of the Iranian government.

    You cannot win a war when your real enemy is bleeding you without consequence.

    September 4, 2010 at 9:11 am |
  13. Mookster

    As a guy that deployed 2x I can definately say that as a soldier every guy we lost was a heartbreak, but losing a chaplain would probably feel absolutely awful, like losing one of your best bros does. Everybody loves the chaplan regardless of what his\your religion is. This guy died bringing God into peoples lives and i truely hope there is a heavenly father and this man is with him.

    September 3, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
  14. Kate

    For what it's worth, Patriot Guard Riders have been posting their condolences for all those who died on our own forums.

    September 3, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  15. Reality

    And again we see on the koranic-driven, terror road of Islam!!!!!

    Other acts of contemporary, koranic-driven terror speak much louder than words:

    1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

    1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

    2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

    3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US Troops killed in action, 3,481 and 924 died in non-combat, 97,172 – 106,047 Iraqi civilians killed as of 8/10/2010

    4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

    5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

    6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

    7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

    8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

    9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

    10) Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan: US troops killed in action 1,116 killed in action, 902killed in non-combat situations as of 08/10/2010. 40,000 Afghan civilians have been killed due to the dark age, koranic-driven terror of the Taliban.

    11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

    12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

    13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

    14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations

    15) Followed by the daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings every day in the terror world of Islam.

    How the USA taxpayers fight or have fought terror and aggression over the last 70 years:

    Operation Iraqi Freedom- The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US Troops killed in action, 3,481 and 924 died in non-combat, 97,172 – 106,047 Iraqi civilians killed as of 8/10/2010 mostly due to Shiite or Sunni suicide bombers.

    - Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan: US troops 1,116 killed in action, 902 killed in non-combat situations as of 08/10/2010. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror,

    - Sa-dd-am, his sons and major he-nchmen have been deleted. Sa-dd-am's bravado about WMD was one of his major mistakes. Kuwait was saved.

    - Iran is being been contained. (beside containing the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Baghdad, that is the main reason we are in Iraq. And yes, essential oil continues to flow from the region.)

    - Libya has become almost civil. Recently Libya agreed to pay $1.5 billion to the victims of their terrorist activities. Apparently this new reality from an Islamic country has upset OBL and his “cra-zies” as they have thre-atened Libya. OBL sure is a di-sgrace to the world especially the Moslem world!!! Or is he???

    - North Korea is still u-ncivil but is contained.

    - Northern Ireland is finally at peace.

    - The Jews and Palestinians are being separated by walls. Hopefully the walls will follow the 1948 UN accords. Unfortunately the Annapolis Peace Conference was not successful. And unfortunately the recent events in Gaza has put this situation back to “squ-are one”. And this significant stupidity is driven by the mythical foundations of both religions!!!

    - Bin La-d-en has been cornered under a rock in Western Pakistan since 9/11.

    - Fa-na–tical Islam has basically been contained to the Middle East but a wall between India and Pakistan would be a plus for world peace. Ditto for a wall between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    - Timothy McVeigh was exe-cuted. Terry Nichols will follow soon.

    - Eric Ru-dolph is spending three life terms in pri-son with no par-ole.

    - Jim Jones, David Koresh, Kaczynski, the "nuns" from Rwanda, and the KKK were all dealt with and either eliminated themselves or are being punished.

    - Islamic Sudan, Dar-fur and So-malia are still terror hot spots.

    - The terror and tor-ture of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo and Kuwait were ended by the proper application of the military forces of the USA and her freedom-loving friends. Ra-dovan Karadzic was finally captured on 7/23/08 and is charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the law of war – charges related to the 1992-1995 civil war that followed Bosnia-Herzegovina's secession from Yugoslavia.

    - And of course the bloody terror brought about the Ja-panese, Na-zis and Co-mmunists was with great difficulty eliminated by the good guys.

    September 3, 2010 at 8:08 am |
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      September 6, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
  16. Atheist Officer

    For many of you expecting a snarky comment from me, you will not get one. Despite my nonbeliever status, I am sincerely saddened by the passing of Capt Goetz. Military Chaplains are so much more than religious representatives. They are counselors. They provide a shoulder to cry on when someone is in need, regardless of faith or belief. They exercise compassion and care to everyone, including those outside of their belief system. Chaplains have helped me through a number of situations while deployed, and I never once was preached to with regard to my beliefs. Although I do not know what will happen to us when we die, I sincerely hope Capt Goetz is in a good place, and I sincerely thank him and his family for his unwavering service. You will be missed Capt Goetz. You mattered to us.

    September 3, 2010 at 3:22 am |
    • Soldier in the Middle East

      I concur

      September 4, 2010 at 3:00 am |
  17. Tanbiker2

    Goetz? He wasn't a Baptist, he was a jew. Only only has to know his name and see his face picture to know.

    September 3, 2010 at 3:01 am |
    • Atheist Officer

      I hope you die in the most painful of circumstances. You are less than the mud under my well worn boots you piece of...

      September 3, 2010 at 3:24 am |
  18. makdidly

    Why put Iraq in the headline? But we're not in a war in Iraq now right? Isn't it called "Operation Finally Leaving But We'll Still Give You Billions, Don't Worry" or something?

    RIP Chaplain sir, and thank you.

    September 3, 2010 at 2:38 am |
  19. John

    Wasn't Chaplain Tim Vakoc the first chaplain to be killed in the Iraqi conflict?

    September 3, 2010 at 2:33 am |
    • Navy Chaplain

      He died a little over five years after being seriously wounded from an IED attack, so while his death was directly related to his combat injury, he didn't die in combat.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:08 am |
  20. PARROT

    STUPID CRIMINALS...LET'S SEND THE TROOPS BACK !!

    September 3, 2010 at 2:20 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.