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NEWS | March 8, 2021

This is not who I am: a chaplain's story

By Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

“I need you to come see me this afternoon.”

Nine words no one wants to hear from their company commander.

U.S. Army Maj. Daniel Goulet, a chaplain with the Regimental Memorial Chapel, heard those harrowing words from his own commander many years ago. Despite the officer’s assurance he wasn’t in trouble, the young soldier couldn’t fight back his anxiety.

“My emotions and thoughts were ‘what did I do,’ and I was nervous throughout the day,” said Goulet. When he walked in, he saw his company commander, first sergeant, platoon sergeant and squad leader waiting for him; he described it as an intervention.

The culmination of an inner struggle the young man had fought since childhood, Goulet was always the odd man out.

He was born in Florida, moved to Maine at six-years-old, his parents quickly divorced, his dad moved to Vermont, and he and his brother settled in Maine with his mom.

“This was the early 80’s and no one knew fully the impact on youth yet,” Goulet recalled. “I was the new kid in 4th grade; the other students were together since kindergarten. It was known my parents were separated and I spoke differently… so I stood out and it took a bit of time before I was accepted.”

As the years passed, Goulet found new friends when he joined the Air Force’s official auxiliary: the Civil Air Patrol, where he remains a member today.
Goulet later began his Army career as a personnel management specialist; finding companions who shared his interests in science fiction, anime and comics. However, as expected in active-duty life, these friends eventually moved on to other duty stations.

Plagued by years of loneliness and isolation, Goulet desperately tried to find a place where he belonged. Episodes of partying, bar-hopping, and clubbing became an unhealthy norm.

“To this day I don’t know how [we] were able to get up for physical training in the morning,” Goulet said, and laughed. “…They weren’t bad people, they just had different goals. They were focused on living in the ‘here and now.’”

Work ethic and physical fitness fading, the young man drifted from the standards expected from him as a Soldier. It wasn’t long before Goulet’s leadership and colleagues noticed something was off and called him in.

The party was over, and now came the wakeup call.

“You’re not on your game, so tell us what’s going on,” Goulet recalled his leaders saying. “I told them that my friends were leaving, I felt out of place and so I’ve been hanging out with folks from the other barracks—I’ve just been feeling lost.”

Goulet’s leaders understood, and prescribed a path to recovery.

The Soldier would become more involved with his volunteer work in CAP. They also referred him to a chaplain, knowing Goulet was a person of faith. One of his colleagues also helped him acquire a driver’s license, giving him the ability to become more independent and explore more opportunities for himself.

Time and a strong support structure allowed Goulet to reconnect with his faith; ultimately helping him find his calling as a Catholic priest.

Chaplaincy is like having two full-time jobs according to Goulet: serving as a parish priest with all the religious duties of his faith, and then as a military officer watching over the morale and well-being of the troops. He also credits his involvement in CAP for preparing him to serve as a chaplain in a joint service environment—allowing him to effectively minister to both Air Force and Army members.

“It’s very busy, but it’s the good kind of busy,” he remarked. “No matter your denominational background as a chaplain, you have to have a love for your troops—a genuine love so strong that you will meet them where they are. Love them no matter what their background is; no matter what their faith is and what they’re struggling through. Treat them with love, dignity and respect even if they’re different from you.”

Goulet looked back upon his leadership’s intervention with gratefulness, calling on leaders everywhere to look after their members, and meet them at their level when they experience hardships in life.

“We’re part of a team, but a team is made up of all these unique parts that work together,” Goulet said. “What is important is to make sure the group of people you belong to care for you...When it comes to your personality, be who you are and not what others want you to be. Maybe you’re still trying to figure that part out, and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s a lifelong process, but be proud of who you are.”