By Aleah M. Castrejon | Mountaineer editor
FORT CARSON, Colo. — “The day that it occurred, I remembered the silence that went out all over the Chaplains’ Corps, I remembered standing in the place where chaplains met every week … and I wondered how this was going to impact us,” said Retired Capt. Raymond Pettitt, chaplain, about Capt. Dale A. Goetz, who was killed in action (KIA) Aug. 30, 2010.
Fort Carson chaplains, U.S. Postal Service leaders, political officials, Family, friends and community members gathered at the Briargate Post Office to witness the official renaming of the building July 23, 2021, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Pettitt spoke of Goetz, sharing memories that tugged at his emotions as he stood at the podium, but always with a positive light. As a chaplain, he expressed how much of the time chaplains are needed during crises, but said Goetz was always asking, “How can I help.”
In December 2020, an announcement was made that the U.S. Senate unanimously approved Rep. Doug Lamborn’s legislation to name the Briargate Post Office to honor Goetz.
Christy Goetz-Bixby said she was surprised when she was approached about the renaming, and at first was hesitant, but hopes the renaming will serve for others to remember her late husband.
“This is amazing, such an honor, Dale would not want that,” Goetz-Bixby said. “But I am honored to be his widow and honored that he gave the ultimate for God and the country. And to have everyone remember — in the post office — is truly a blessing and honor.”
She said Dale was very optimistic, competitive, and fun and explained how much of a Family-man he was and how much he loved his three sons.
“It’s important to me that he was a Godly man and loved God and his country, and evidence today shows that’s truly who he was,” she said.
Alex Howell served on the pararescue team that received the radio call when Goetz and four other Soldiers were killed.
Howell recalled packing up and flying out to the site but remembered there were no survivors. Goetz and the other Soldiers: Pfc. Chad D. Clements, Staff Sgt. Jesse Infante, Staff Sgt. Kevin J. Kessler and Staff Sgt. Matthew J. West, were all flown back to the main base.
Of all the calls Howell has made, seeing the chaplain badge was something that stuck with him, and when he returned from his deployment, he reached out to Goetz’ church. His efforts to contact the Family were fruitful, as he has remained friends of the Family for the last decade. He said it was good to see Goetz honored in this way.
“(This event) is more about witnessing how we recognize our troops. That’s an important thing we do as a country is to recognize our troops, especially the ones who have fallen,” Howell said. “(It is also) for the Family (and) the guys who are in uniform right now. It does feel really great to know that we are involved with continuous recognition, and to never forget.”
Lamborn spoke of Goetz’ many educational accomplishments and his military service where he served in Washington, Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Goetz served with 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and served for 11 years before being paying the ultimate sacrifice on his third deployment. He died in the Arghandab River Valley, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He is the first Army chaplain killed in action since 1970, during the Vietnam War.
“Chaplain Goetz risked his life because of his core values: his love, service and sacrifice for his Soldiers,” Lamborn said. “Chaplain Goetz repeatedly answered the call of duty to his country. (He) served with great distinction, rose with rank throughout his military career (and) his lifelong and selfless commitment to the defense of America, American values and the American way of life is why we honor him today. He is an American hero who spent his life serving others and spreading his faith.”
Col. Mark Stewart, senior command chaplain, Fort Carson and 4th Infantry Division, said he was most touched by Christy Goetz-Bixby and her strength.
“(I reached out to her) and she ended up ministering to me,” he said.
Stewart commended the congressman’s staff as well as the USPS staff for putting the event together and working with the chaplains on Fort Carson.
“This is remarkably poignant, meaningful and … not only seeing all of the chaplains and religious affairs specialists, but seeing that the community at large and the congressman, in particular, his energy behind this came together to see Dale honored this way,” Stewart said.
Stewart said events such as this help to clarify the calling of those considering the job.
“It helps us to know that there was a chaplain (who) absolutely identified as a ‘dirty boots’ (chaplain who was) down in the mud, in the Humvee, in the motor pool, in the field, on combat and in this case, convoys, with Soldiers sharing the risks,” Stewart said. “But he wasn’t just that, he had a fully integrated faith.”
Among the many chaplains in attendance, Maj. Gen. Thomas Solhjem, the U.S. Army’s 25th chief of chaplains, served as a guest speaker. He spoke about the history of the Chaplain Corps, which was established in 1775 when the mode of transportation and the pay were vastly different from today.
“I don’t know Dale’s story of calling … (but) I know that at some point in time, God said, ‘Dale this is what I want you to do.’ And he answered that call and put on the uniform — being willing to accept whatever that call may require,” Solhjem added.
Dale was doing what he was called to do, Solhjem said.
“Dale is deserving of the honor because he serves the truth of who a chaplain is,” Pettitt said. “Chaplaincy is more than just what you see. … So today I honor Dale and say, ‘Dale, I hope to see you one day, and when I do, I will see you and I will salute you, because you were everything that we needed you to be.’”