Since July 29, 1775, approximately 25,000 Army Chaplains have served as religious and spiritual leaders for 25 million Soldiers and their Families. From military installations to deployed combat units and from service schools to military hospitals, Army Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants have performed their ministries in the most religiously diverse organization in the world. Always present with their Soldiers in war and in peace, Army Chaplains have served in more than 270 major wars and combat engagements. Some 400 Army Chaplains have laid down their lives in battle. Six have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Their love of God, Country and the American Soldier has been a beacon of light and a message of hope for all those who have served our nation. Currently, over 2,800 Chaplains are serving the Total Army representing over 130 different religious organizations. Over 800 Chaplains and Chaplain assistants are currently mobilized or deployed in support of contingency operations throughout the world.
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 personal messages to their families.
There are just 280 chaplains to minister to nearly 100,000 U.S. troops spread across Afghanistan, and 200 in Iraq. Chaplains deploy, and their families, like those of all service members, dread the knock at the door.
"As a chaplain's wife, you have that fear of the unknown," said Christy Goetz, who met Dale at a Baptist Bible college and includes "thechaplainswife" in her e-mail address. "But I was giving my husband to God."
For the first time since the Vietnam War, the military had to adjust its memorial service when it was time to pay last respects to Goetz. Soldiers killed in battle are honored by placing their helmets, dog tags and boots next to their rifles, but chaplains are unarmed.
For Chaplain Goetz, a wooden cross took the place of the weapon.