Oct 13, 2010 6:39 PM by Zach Thaxton

Fort Carson honors 9 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Hundreds of family, friends, and fellow soldiers packed Soldiers' Memorial Chapel on Fort Carson's Mountain Post Wednesday to pay tribute to nine soldiers killed recently in Afghanistan, including the first Army chaplain to be killed in a combat zone since the Vietnam War.

Capt. Dale Goetz, 43, of South Dakota, was among five soldiers killed when the vehicle they were riding in hit an improvised explosive device on August 30.  He is the first Army chaplain to die in combat in roughly 40 years.  "He had a great passion for the soldiers that he served," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Houston, chaplain for the 4th Infantry Division.  Maj. Michael Birmingham of the 1st Brigade Combat Team echoed praise for Chaplain Goetz.  "He was a dedicated man of God and a dedicated chaplain and a dedicated officer," Birmingham said.  Typically, fallen soldiers are represented by boots, a helmet, dog tags, and rifle erected in the chapel to symbolize their sacrifice.  Chaplain Goetz's passing was symbolized with a wooden cross instead of a rifle.

Other soldiers remembered Wednesday included Staff Sgt. Kevin Kessler, 32, whose widow is pregnant with their first child.  Staff Sgt. Jesse Infante, 30, was engaged to be married and is survived by a young daughter.  Staff Sgt. Matthew West, 36, an expert in artillery disposal, is survived by a wife, two sons, and a newborn daughter.

"For every combat soldier, there is a multiple of support troops and support mechanism to keep them healthy, to make sure they get food, ammunition," said Chaplain Lt. Col. Houston.  "The support soldiers are just as critical to the combat mission as combat soldiers out there on the front lines."

Spc. Timothy Johnson, 24 - Randolph, NY
Staff Sgt. Kevin Kessler, 32 - Canton, OH
Staff Sgt. Jesse Infante, 30 - Cypress, TX
Chaplain Capt. Dale Goetz, 43 - White, SD
Lt. Mark Noziska, 24 - Papillion, NE
Staff Sgt. Casey Grochowiak, 34 - Lompoc, CA
Staff Sgt. Matthew West, 36 - Conover, WI
Spc. Chad Clements, 26 - Huntington, IN
Spc. Pedro Millet Meletiche IV, 20 - Elizabeth, NJ


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