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 • Military • United States

soundoff (121 Responses)
  1. Carole Eden

    God did not ask this man and his family to give his life. Governments did. Speak to your government representatives! I am so sorry for his children and wife and parents.

    September 3, 2010 at 2:12 am |
  2. Edgar Friendly

    I don't share the religious beliefs of these men, but I fully recognize the role they play in keeping our fighting men who DO hold those beliefs both mentally healthy and in good spirits. Hope he made it wherever he hoped to go.

    September 3, 2010 at 2:08 am |

    My hat goes off to every fallen solider fighting for their country. Myself, being in the military it's a little upsetting the way that the fallen get recongized i.e. "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". Four others? Are they not important? That's pretty ridiculous and upsetting.

    September 3, 2010 at 2:03 am |
  4. trakTRUK

    well what i have to say about this is ?? why people mix religion with war if i want to be cristian i going to be cristian no soldier cristian lol thays funny how ppl misinterpreting the word of god preaching the world of god and kiling inosent ppl in other countries even if the chaplain wasen't killing ppl is soporting the war so? what is the big diference or is a good person preaching the good news and agains wars and every evil activity or is just a political well paid soldier doing brain wash to young fellas to join the army even knowing the atrosities u s was doing to that poor people well what else to say ?

    September 3, 2010 at 1:36 am |
    • Atheist Officer

      You will never understand because you lack the courage and fortitude to serve. You are a coward, and we do not accept cowards in the military. You will never be one of us.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:28 am |
  5. Anita

    As a veteran, my heart goes out to the families of the 4 slain soldiers and the Chaplain. You will be remembered for defending our country and you paid the ultimate sacrifice. Bless all of you and Chaplain I am sure your boys will grow up to be men that you will be proud of.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:21 am |
  6. Beck Me Good

    He died on a Christianity mission to kill innocent Muslims. Regardless, this is an illegal war and people and soldiers are just dying to fill up some people's wallet. Also, these wars are being done to spread Christianity. That is the truth!

    September 3, 2010 at 1:15 am |
  7. Juan Torres

    911 was an inside job. the hole in the pentagon was caused by missle. no757 parts were found in or outside the pentagon,only a wallet belonging to the so called hyjacker was found ( it was planted) google " 911 inside job".

    September 3, 2010 at 12:48 am |
    • HLB

      Tell that to my friend who was on the freeway NEXT to the Pentagon when the plane flew over head & into the building. There was no missle, it was a real plane.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:03 am |
  8. Shawn

    It's ridiculous the Army even has chaplains. Why is this man's death more important than another military member's death? All this does is give Muslims more propaganda to claim the US is a Crusader army.

    September 3, 2010 at 12:46 am |
    • Kate


      Their presence doesn't make any difference to the crap that's put out – and the benefits of a padre on hand far outweigh any potential PR hit IMNSHO.

      Just sayin'

      September 3, 2010 at 12:57 am |
    • HLB

      There are also Muslim chaplains in our military. And they are also serving in the AOR.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:04 am |
  9. haterade

    i've done 20 + years in the military and never tire of the stupidity, hatred and ignorance of the general public when posts come about on items like this....I'm amazed we still serve your country. RIP Chaps.....

    September 3, 2010 at 12:18 am |
  10. AA

    My heart goes out to the family and their loss. My husband is a Religious Program Specialist (guards the Chaplain)...

    September 3, 2010 at 12:10 am |
  11. Darlene

    CHAPLAIN CAPTAIN DALE GOETZ: to his family & friends. we know you will always miss your husband, father, son, grandson but God had a different pan for hiom. he lived as a hero and we know he died as a hero. also to anyone believing someone dies alone, this is not true. you never die alone.. Please open your mind to the possibiities. you would learn to love without hate. he is the only God and he loves me with all my sins. I apologize I didn't mean to write a lecture buit some of these comments may come out of ignorance, or possibly disappointment in the law going on so long. I pray, for the brave men & women fighting in a strange place, every chance Io get. So please if anyone has lost a loved one, please know I'm so sorry and I send my love & a hug. I hope it helps even a little bit. God Does Love Unconditionally.

    September 3, 2010 at 12:10 am |
  12. Wzrd1

    If you have read the responses above, you may have noticed I did not go into matters of faith with Chaplains. That is because beyond religious support, they provide a number of other important services.
    Case in point was some years ago after I left Active Duty, I joined the Army National Guard. Not long after I joined the unit, I noticed a number of men from the unit not eating hot meals in the field OR in the mess hall. If they couldn't get someone to go off post to the local fast food joint, they didn't eat.
    After questioning a few, I determined the cause. A handful of men were Jewish. The remainder were Muslim. The problem wasn't halal or kosher issues, but because EVERY MEAL had pork in it. Every one. I counted and reviewed the mess records.
    I made mention to the chain of command with little interest from them or support. Indeed, ONE Captain very nearly lost his commission over the remark (and subsequent actions) that they're the wrong religion for the Army. He received a LOT of training on what was proper behavior for a commissioned officer after the dust settled.
    I went to the Battalion commander, zero results. "Their religion is their choice, so is not eating." Similar remarks from the Brigade commander.
    I then called out the heavy artillery. A brief consultation with the Battalion Chaplain escalated matters to the Brigade Chaplain, who didn't get results from Brigade, so went to Division and up to Big Army.
    Within days thunder, fire and brimstone rained down from Big Army, reminding said senior and junior officers of regulations and appropriate behavior.
    The menu immediately changed to the regulation required menu that permitted those who could not eat pork or even meat had something to eat NOT loaded with meat (before, even the green beans had pork chunks thrown in, so did corn).
    Field rations were made available that were kosher (and as such, are halal) for those who required them upon request.
    Religious observance times were also permitted for those who were not Catholic or Protestant.
    All due to the actions of two Baptist Chaplains.

    September 3, 2010 at 12:07 am |
    • Fast Eddie

      That is a great post. You should consider publishing these stories from your life somewhere in addition to sharing them with us.
      If you've seen my skidmarks around here, you'll know that I'm almost obsessively agnostic and rather hostile to most religions.
      But is it about equality under the law or equality between belief systems? Or ethical vs unethical behavior?
      I don't know, but I liked it anyway.

      September 3, 2010 at 12:38 am |
    • CatholicMom

      What an alarming story! What are they thinking?! Who works up the menus? I don’t see why everyone cannot be accommodated properly. And what about vegans? If I weren’t so old, I’d volunteer to do kitchen work! [But maybe they don't let you 'pick and choose' your job....]

      September 3, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • Frogist

      @Wzrd1: Another great story and the kind of thing I'm curious about. I'm with Fast Eddie. You should consider writing this stuff down. Also, it is very disturbing that this kind of intolerance is shown to soldiers in our army. Unfortunately, you just have to look at any articles about Islam on these boards and you know it's not isolated. Still shocking though. Kudos to those chaplains who understood that it's not so much about faith, as it's about food.

      September 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  13. Lionel

    Chaplain Goetz was my BN Chaplain in Okinawa for three years. He was always on the go – helping out his fellow soldiers, putting in countless hours to make life better for everyone else. He will be sorely missed.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Lionel: Sorry for the loss of your comrade. Sounds like he made many friends in his time in this world.

      September 3, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  14. Lifer

    From this tragic death, ya'll need to get life. That means you too Jonny "Sky Fairy."

    September 2, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
    • GodIsForImbeciles

      Go chase bigfoot if you're that whimsical.

      September 3, 2010 at 4:14 am |
  15. Darlene

    to the Chaplain who died.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  16. John Stull

    The fact remains that he was a soilder, and fighting for our country, just because he put god before all else is no matter.He deserves special recognition because he put his life on the line to protect us, as well as comfort soldiers of all faiths, and bring peace to them in the hard times that being shot at brings. Until you are ready to give your life for others, you have not a leg to stand on when you speak bad of him or any other soilder.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  17. BellaItaly

    I wonder about the Chaplain's assistant. In the military they have Chaplains and Chaplain's Assistant. I wonder if his assistant was with him and did he or she die also. I know that they have one of the hardest duties back home when a soldier is wounded or died. I know my own husband had many nights worrying that he would have to go to one of those notifications. Honestly I think that truly worried him allot and he would loose sleep over it. This people really care for the soldiers. God bless them ALL. We owe the families so very much that we could never repay their loss.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  18. Brian

    Religion is the problem in the Mideast – in case you haven't noticed.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  19. Peter F

    May God bless his family and keep them comforted in this difficult time. It serves as a reminder that the battlefield (both physical and spiritual) is intense and costly.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  20. 1/1 ADA BN, Okinawa Japan

    You are a great servant of God. Thank You for your dedication. You will be truly missed.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.