I was also reminded of a more somber anniversary coming next month: It will have been five years since Chaplain Capt. Dale Goetz was killed in action, along with five soldiers from his unit, on Aug. 30, 2010, by a roadside bomb in the Arghandab Valley near Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was the first U.S. military chaplain killed in action in 40 years.
The hardest moment during my tenure as Army chief of chaplains was receiving the news that one of our nation’s chaplains had been killed in action. Emails and phone calls began flooding in, attesting to the tremendous spiritual impact he’d had on members of the military and their families.
An airman reported that Chaplain Goetz had led him to a profession of faith. A couple said that his pastoral counseling had saved their marriage. Two young men entered the ministry as a result of his influence on their lives. A soldier who attended Chaplain Goetz’s last chapel service, inspired by his message that we should live with the same compassion we saw in Jesus Christ, said he had been moved to ask God’s forgiveness of those who were “setting the bombs on the road for us to die.”
Such influence on America’s military personnel has been a hallmark of the chaplain corps since the Revolutionary War.