Text Size:
  • A
  • A
  • A

The Fallen, The Faithful


by Joseph O’Brien

The stories of three Knights killed in action remind us to pray for and give thanks to those willing to pay freedom’s ultimate cost

Christine and Clifford Clore with their son George.

Christine and Clifford Clore, together with their son George, are pictured at their home with a photo of their son Marine Lance Cpl. Peter Clore, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. Photo by J. Albert Studios

From the Great War to the Gulf War to ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, tens of thousands of Knights of Columbus have served during military conflicts. More than 3,300 of them made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I and World War II. These men embodied the principles of the Order: charity, unity, fraternity and — especially — patriotism.

This Memorial Day, we honor three of the nearly 50 Knights who have died this century during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as family members they left behind attest to their generosity, courage and faith-filled service.

From a young age, Peter Clore had a protective nature. He was the oldest of four children, and according to his parents, Clifford and Christine Clore of New Philadelphia, Ohio, he always wanted to lead the way.

It was in this forward position that Clore lost his life. He was serving as a dog handler locating improvised explosive devices when his unit came under enemy fire in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was killed May 28, 2011, at age 23.

“Peter knew he would be out front with the Marines — and once he became certified as a dog handler, he would be further out in front of the whole patrol,” his mother said. “But this is what he did throughout his life. Even when he served at the altar, he was frequently the server out front with the incense.”

Clore also encouraged his siblings — George, Sarah and John — to take a leading role.

“Peter always pushed me to serve at Mass,” George recalled. “He wanted to make sure I was serving so I could understand the Mass better.”

Clore’s natural leadership developed as a Boy Scout, an active member of his parish, a Special Olympics volunteer and a Knight of Columbus. He joined New Philadelphia Council 2372 in early 2006, shortly after his 18th birthday.

He then enrolled at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, where he began studies for the priesthood. (He had first expressed a desire to become a priest after his first Communion.)

In 2008, Clore decided to take a break from studies and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, his company was deployed to assist with humanitarian relief, and he intended to go back to help the Haitian people after his military service.

“He learned that helping others was important in life,” his father, Clifford, said. “When I was his Cubmaster, I would emphasize the duties of God, country, others and self. If you get the first three right, the fourth will take care of itself.”

Whether in the seminary or in combat boots, Lance Cpl. Clore saw his Catholic faith as crucial to any mission.

“His friends and fellow Marines have told us that he never forgot that his real strength was in God,” Clifford said. “He kept his Bible with him at all times and would read it whenever possible. He would also hand out rosaries to his fellow Marines.”

Their son’s faith, as well as their own, was a comfort to the Clores when they learned of his death.

“We found a lot of strength in our community and in our faith,” Christine Clore said. “We knew that Peter was doing what he wanted to do, and following what God asked him to do. That helped us to understand.”

Within months, Council 2372 in New Philadelphia, where Clifford was serving as grand knight, was renamed for his son. Peter’s brother George also joined LCpl Peter Clore Council 2372 in 2014. By that time, the Clore family had adopted Peter’s dog, Duke, with the full blessings of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Marine Lance Cpl.
Peter J. Clore

Dec. 21, 1987 – May 28, 2011
New Philadelphia (Ohio) Council 2372

John and Lorie Goldsmith stand with a photo of their son

John and Lorie Goldsmith stand with a photo of their son, Wyatt A. Goldsmith, a Green Beret medic who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. Photo by Jerome A. Pollos

Basic training for Wyatt Goldsmith started long before he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2004. Born in Redmond, Wash., Goldsmith excelled at skiing in high school and later joined the National Ski Patrol, learning the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of mountain rescue and first aid. The most important lesson he learned on the slopes, according to his parents, John and Lorie Goldsmith, was service to those in need.

“When he got home at the end of the day after a patrol, we’d ask him how his day went,” his father recalled. “When he got to treat someone who was injured that day, he got a light in his eyes. He always had the personality of a rescuer and a caregiver.”

Donning the Green Beret, Goldsmith served three tours as a Special Forces medic — once in Iraq and twice in Afghanistan. During a battle on his first Afghanistan tour, he rescued some wounded Afghan soldiers after being hit by enemy gunfire himself. He later received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his actions.

Goldsmith recovered from his wounds and deployed to Afghanistan a second time. After enemy forces engaged his unit in Helmand Province on July 15, 2011, the 28-year-old medic once again attended to an injured Afghan soldier. This time, he was mortally wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade.

“Wyatt always said, ‘God loves medics,’” Lorie Goldsmith recalled. “I don’t think he had the same fear level that some people may have, at least at that moment when he died, because he was busy treating someone.”

Wyatt had joined Colville (Wash.) Council 12273 in 2002, in the footsteps of his father, and he made sure to take the Knights’ most important weapon with him into battle; while still in training, he wrote his parents to ask them to send him a rosary.

“He figured that as a Knight it was important that he have a rosary on him at all times,” said John Goldsmith, who now serves as grand knight of St. George Council 12560 in Post Falls, Idaho. “That rosary was on him when he was killed several years later.”

The Goldsmiths want the world to remember their son as a good soldier and a good Catholic who was serving others up to the moment he died.

“The best men in the military are men of faith,” Lorie said. “You have to be, to do the things they do and lead the people they lead. And Wyatt had that.”

John added, “With our faith in the teachings of the Church, I’m confident that I’m going to see him again.”

Army Sgt. 1st Class
Wyatt A. Goldsmith
Sept. 21, 1982 — July 15, 2011
Colville (Wash.) Council 12273

Kenny and Steve Wagner hold a photo of Gregory A. Wagner

Kenny and Steve Wagner hold a photo of their youngest brother, Staff Sgt. Gregory A. Wagner, who was killed in Baghdad in 2006. Photo by Jeff Sampson Photography

Staff Sgt. Gregory Wagner of Mitchell, S.D., would be nearly 50 years old today — but for his siblings (Wagner was the youngest of seven), he will always be remembered as a fun-loving, 30-something uncle to their children.

“Greg was great with kids,” said his brother Kenny Wagner, a member of Maher Council 1079 in Mitchell. “He loved his nieces and nephews, and they had great fun with him being around.”

Greg joined the Army National Guard right out of high school, and after the Sept. 11 attacks he wanted to help children who had no uncle to protect them.

“When he saw all these young kids and babies being treated so poorly over there, Greg wanted to make a change,” Kenny said. “He thought he could make a difference.”

Staff Sgt. Wagner’s mission in Iraq was training local police forces. He was killed in Baghdad while returning to base May 8, 2006, when his Humvee was hit by an explosive projectile.

A member of Council 1079 since early 2001, Wagner had a concern for others that was rooted in his Catholic faith.

“Greg knew that God was number one in his life,” Kenny said.

According to his brothers, Greg convinced members of his unit in Iraq to recite the Irish blessing before and after each mission.

“War is an ugly thing,” said Steve Wagner, a member of St. Michael Council 12617 in Sioux Falls, S.D. “But these men were asking for God’s guidance to go into their mission for the right reason.”

Today, Steve keeps his brother’s rosary with him at all times as a way to remember Greg and all the fallen in his prayers.

“It’s a rosary with brown beads and with one Hail Mary bead missing — and I’m sure that’s because of its use by Greg,” said Steve. “It’s one of the most prized possessions I have.”

While Kenny, Steve and the rest of the family miss their brother dearly, they are grateful that their hometown of Alexandria, S.D., has taken his service and sacrifice to heart.

“After Greg was killed, it brought it home to the rest of the Alexandria,” Steve said. “When you go to a Memorial Day service there today, about 150 to 250 people come. Alexandria has only 700 people. It’s become an important holiday for the community.”

Kenny hopes that more Americans observe this day in May with prayerful events, and not only picnics.

“These men didn’t die just so we can have a day off,” he said. “They should be honored by prayers for the ultimate sacrifice they made.”

Army National Guard
Staff Sgt. Gregory A. Wagner
Nov. 26, 1970 — May 8, 2006
Maher Council 1079
in Mitchell, S.D.

JOSEPH O’BRIEN is a freelance writer who lives in Soldiers Grove, Wis. He is a member of St. James the Greater Council 12606 in Gays Mill.