Living a Legacy of Courage and Compassion | by Grace Goetsch

Grace Goetsch is the surviving eldest daughter of Lieutenant Benjamin Colgan, who was Killed in Action 11/2/2003 while serving with the 5th SFG. LT Colgan is survived by his wife Jill, and daughters Grace, Paige, and Cooper. Grace is currently a junior at Northwest Missouri State University majoring in Applied Health Sciences. She is ranked at the top of her class and is working within her field of study. Pictured above: Grace in her father’s arms with her mother Jill and baby sister Paige. 

I was very young when my father died, but I have grown up hearing stories regarding his character, especially the loyalty he showed to the men and women around him, as well as his family. That is something I have always cherished; I have always been so proud to be his daughter. My father, LT Benjamin J. Colgan, served many decades for the United States Army, including being a member of Delta Force. My inspiration for nursing and the desire to help others runs deep, as it stems from one of the most tragic days for my family, the day of my father’s biggest sacrifice, shortly after the attack on 9/11.

Before 9/11, my father was a bomb officer. He had chosen this position so that he could spend more time with my pregnant mother, and my sister (who was one year old) and me (I was two years old). The attack on 9/11 shocked the nation and was a day that changed the course of our country. My father knew that there was a call he needed to answer, because shortly after that tragic day my father was asked if he would deploy to Iraq to train a group of new soldiers for the war to come. He did not have to go, but he knew he could make a difference. Departing from my mother, sister, and me in Germany, he went to serve.

On November 1, 2003, only a few months after my father was deployed to Iraq, a terrible accident happened when he was heading back to base. While sitting in the passenger seat of a Humvee with his window cracked, an IED bomb went off under his vehicle. Shrapnel from the bomb entered the vehicle and struck my father in the head. Alongside him, there was an Army medic. She was quick to act and respond to my father’s injuries, and because of her skill and compassion she was able to stabilize him. This made all the difference for my family. Her actions allowed my dad to reach the hospital and he had enough time to say goodbye to my mother and those he loved.

Although I was only two years old the day my father passed, that day forever impacted me. The bravery, courage, and care the medic exhibited represented the epitome of a health professional — everything that I aspire to be. I want to help people the way she was able to help my father — the impact she had on that day, and my life, was nothing short of incredible.

Similarly, it is hard to put into words the impact that support from Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) has had on my secondary education. I will complete my bachelor’s degree at Northwest Missouri State and nursing school debt free — a huge burden off my mother’s shoulders, as she struggled to financially support her three young children after my father passed away.

Because of the support I have received from SOWF, I was able to travel and tour universities until I was able to find the school of my dreams. I am currently a Junior at Northwest Missouri State University, working towards my bachelor’s degree in Applied Health Sciences with an emphasis in exercise science and beginning my application process for nursing school this fall. I am also a member of my university’s soccer team. I have been able to complete courses to become a certified nursing assistant, during which I have received hands-on experience caring for patients while working alongside other health professionals. I have also been able to complete an internship at my university’s clinic which led to securing a job as a nursing assistant. I cannot help but feel grateful for all that the organization has done to help me achieve these goals, as all these opportunities would not have been possible without SOWF. Being able to achieve and experience these things has solidified my passion for nursing.

The legacy of my father and the inspiring actions of his combat medic have together fueled my aspirations. Thanks to the support and care that SOWF has provided, I am more hopeful and excited than ever to continue pursuing my educational dreams.