As you receive In the Nick of Time this week, I will be traveling in Colorado, but I won’t be on vacation. I will be visiting the old Briargate Post Office in Colorado Springs. Why travel to Colorado just to visit a post office? Well, this post office is special. It is being renamed in honor of Chaplain (Capt.) Dale Goetz.
Dale was both a student and a friend. I met him when I came to teach at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. He had graduated from Maranatha Baptist Bible College. He and his wife Christy had moved to Minnesota for seminary. They were attending Southview Baptist Church, and Dale was working at Lyndale Hardware in Richfield.
In the fall of 1998 I had just bought a HUD home that needed considerable repair. Dale volunteered to ask his employer if I could have some of their “mis-tint” paint for my home renovation. A few days later he told me, “There’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that you can have the paint. The bad news is that you have to take all of it.” Thanks to Dale we came away with over twenty gallons of various tints, shades, and textures of paint and stain. By judiciously combining them we were eventually able to use them all.
Dale had been in the Air Force before experiencing his call to ministry. With his military background, I asked him to think about military chaplaincy. That avenue of ministry did not seem appealing to him at the time, but he kept it in the back of his mind, and we discussed it occasionally.
After he graduated from Central Seminary, Dale took the pastorate of First Baptist Church in White, South Dakota. He stayed in White for about three years, and it was during those years that his interest in chaplaincy really began to grow. In 2004 he joined the chaplain corps of the United States Army. Over the next six years he deployed to Okinawa, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He served as the chaplain for the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, with the 4th Infantry Division of Fort Carson, Colorado.
Dale and Christy had three sons over the years. Landon was born in Minneapolis after Dale’s graduation. Caleb was born in White, South Dakota. Joel was born in Okinawa, about a year before Dale deployed to Afghanistan. While Dale was in Afghanistan, his family settled in Colorado Springs. On August 29, 2010, they were received into membership at High Country Baptist Church, pastored by Jason Parker.
Dale had a reputation as a soldier’s chaplain. The story is that the troops called him the “chaplain with dirty boots” because of the time he spent in active ministry. His goal was to lead three hundred soldiers to Christ and to see ten of them go into ministry. Dale also longed to see Muslims saved. He regularly prayed for them (he even prayed for the salvation of Osama Bin Laden), and he shared the gospel with insurgents.
On August 30, 2010 (the day after Dale’s family joined High Country Baptist Church), Dale was outside the wire near the Arghandab River valley in Kandahar. He had been in Afghanistan only a month, and he was on his way to minister to soldiers. The HUM-V that he was riding in detonated a roadside bomb. He and four soldiers who were with him died in the blast. Dale became the first American chaplain to die in combat since Viet Nam.
Dale’s memorial service was held in Colorado Springs. I had the privilege of attending it. The service was packed with high-ranking officers and public dignitaries, including Colorado’s governor. In Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton issued a proclamation recognizing Dale’s sacrifice and ordering flags within the state to be flown at half-mast.
More than ten years later, Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn decided that Dale should have a more permanent memorial. He introduced a bill into Congress to rename the old Briargate Post Office the “Chaplain (Capt.) Dale Goetz Memorial Post Office Building.” The bill passed both houses with bipartisan support. The honor is fitting for someone who served as Dale did.
Since I was president of Central Seminary at the time of Dale’s death, I was asked to represent the seminary at the dedication of this building. Since I am a chaplain in the Air Force Auxiliary (the Civil Air Patrol) I was also asked to represent the CAP Chaplain Corps and Chaplain (Col.) John Murdoch, Chief of Chaplains. It was my privilege today to fulfill both of those roles.
Dale’s funeral was a sorrowful occasion. The dedication of this post office is a joyful one, because it involves public recognition of Dale’s contributions as a military chaplain. Recognition is cause for rejoicing. Much more joyful will be Dale’s recognition at the judgment seat of Christ. That will be a ceremony worth attending.
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
Now May the God of Peace and Love
Thomas Gibbons (1720–1785)
Now may the God of peace and love,
Who from th’ imprisoning grave
Restored the Shepherd of the sheep,
Omnipotent to save;
Through the rich merits of that blood,
Which He on Calvary spilt,
To make the eternal covenant sure,
On which our hopes are built;
Perfect our souls in every grace,
To accomplish all His will;
And all that’s pleasing in His sight,
Inspire us to fulfil.
For the great Mediator’s sake
We every blessing pray;
With glory let His name be crown’d,
Through heaven’s eternal day.