Army Chaplain Killed in Afghanistan: Some Go the Extra Mile
Tim King Salem-News.com
The last Army chaplain lost in combat was Phillip Nichols. He was also killed in October 1970 by a hidden explosive device planted by the enemy.
U.S. Army Chaplain Andrew Werner
(KABUL / SALEM) - A U.S. Army chaplain was killed along with four other soldiers Monday, when the HUMVEE they were traveling in was struck by a roadside bomb. The Chaplain, Army Captain Dale Goetz of the 4th Infantry Division, a native of Hood River, Oregon, is the first Army clergyman to die in combat since the Vietnam War, 40 years ago.
I met a chaplain in Afghanistan, who like Capt. Goetz, believed his scope of duties in the war involved leaving the safe confines of his office, 'behind the wire' as they say, and going to the places where soldiers live a harder life than their counterparts on the larger bases.
I accompanied Capt. Andrew Werner, a Chaplain with the Oklahoma National Guard serving with the U.S. Army's 41st Brigade Combat Team (BCT), on a trip to several forward combat bases in the Pesh Valley for four days in December 2006. My report was filed in January 2007, airing on Salem-News.com and Oregon's KPTV FOX 12.
At the time I wrote, "IED's, ambushes and flags at half-mast are the constant reminders of mortality to the combat soldier."
Obviously that has not changed for regular combat forces, but the loss of a religious soldier is unique.
The last Army chaplain lost in combat was Phillip Nichols. He was also killed by a hidden explosive device planted by the enemy in October of 1970.
An Army chaplain who was severely injured in Iraq in 2006, Tim Vacok, died in a nursing home from a fall in 2009. He was in the care facility three years after being evacuated from the battlefield, due to his war injuries.
Obviously his death was a delayed result of war, and while he did not die in combat, it is clear that it still led to his death.
Army Capt. Dale Goetz of the 4th Infantry Division was among five U.S. soldiers killed when their armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan on Monday.
MSNBC reports that Chaplain Goetz was in a convoy traveling from one forward operating base to the next, where he would counsel soldiers, when they were struck.
This is exactly what Werner was doing when I accompanied him to bustling cities like Jalalabad, and remote outposts in the Pesh Valley like Camp Joyce, Firebase California, Firebase Lumberyard, and others.
From the 2007 report: 'A Man of God and War'
For a Chaplain like Captain Andrew Werner of the Oklahoma National Guard, the job of being a combat soldier and a man of God is one of many challenges.
"Roger. I think we have to as the chaplains, 'cause the army is full of tough soldiers who like to do things and push themselves and we have to push ourselves also to be there with them, and not just be sitting in an office somewhere."
In a country where much strife is delivered by the hands of religious fanatics, there is naturally a good side to the convictions Islamic followers.
A hearty Muslim is a person of immense faith.
Chaplain Werner continues, "It is not a religious war, but yeah they also lean on Allah for their strength and for doing what they need to do but I think we also need to do that ourselves because I think that is the most important thing we have in life."
So Werner goes on talking to those who take the time to listen, about having faith in a higher power. Sometimes the chapel is the dayroom at a remote combat base, with a small number in attendance.
"Like I try to tell my soldiers, and like I hold to myself, that God is with us wherever we need to go, and our life is ultimately in his hands, and that we don't have to be afraid, you know do our safety checks and do what we have to do to be safe but ultimately we can't control what's coming our way, and have trust and faith in him and he'll give us the strength to deal with it and go through what we need to do."
And he agrees that Americans spending time in the Afghanistan combat theatre may have a few lessons they could take home from their brothers on the other side of the world.
"I think the God wills is their saying in Dari, sometimes it is a little fatalistic but they realize God is in control. A lot of times we just think that we need to do this, we need to do that and we're in control, but I think they, in their culture and in their speech, it reflects that their understand of God is in some ways, gripping their culture more than it is ours."
Chaplain Werner says he will continue to reach troops in far flung places like mountaintops and remote forward operating bases, where people well may need him the most.
My thought on these men, is that they are pushing themselves to reach those who are in the worst predicaments, in places that are deadly, frightening on a daily basis, where nerves are worn down every single day. Human beings are not meant to be at war, and those who find themselves outside the wire and exposed to enemy fire, sincerely appreciate a person like Dale Goetz, or Andrew Werner.
Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.
Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 65 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can send Tim an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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