November 14, 2019
Dave Cabrera is pictured on campus with his doctoral dissertation team in 2006.
Dave Cabrera is pictured with his doctoral dissertation team in 2006.

NCSSS Alumnus Lt. Col. Dave Cabrera, who was killed in action, is honored during Veterans Day Ceremony.

The Catholic University of America paused in prayer and remembrance on Veteran’s Day to pay tribute to Dave Cabrera, a military social worker who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Oct. 29, 2011. The ceremony included the dedication of a plaque honoring Cabrera, who earned his doctorate from the National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS) in 2006. 

Rev. Jude DeAngelo, University chaplain, began the ceremony with a brief reflection about the history of Veteran’s Day as a day of remembrance for our nation’s fallen and the men and women who have served for our country. 

Cabrera plaque“I’ve never met a single veteran in all my years as a priest who says that they love the fighting, or that war was an experience they always wanted,” he said. “Ask a vet and they will tell you, they fought or supported the front line soldiers because they believe in freedom, honor, and duty. As we honor Dave Cabrera today and as we honor all veterans, we also remember their families and the loss and sacrifices that come before us and for many generations to come.” 

Lt. Col. Teresa Murray, a third year student in the NCSSS doctoral program, also shared a reflection during the ceremony. As an army social worker herself, she talked about the challenges of the job and expressed gratitude for those pausing to remember Cabrera. 

“Military social workers are a special breed,” she said. “They essentially volunteer to serve twice. They volunteer to serve their nation and they do everything in their power to serve the men and women they work with in uniform.” 

Barbara Early, who previously served as chair of the Ph.D. program and Cabrera’s dissertation advisor, said she always remembers him for his “unusual confidence, wry smile, and devilish twinkle in his eye.” 

Cabrera was one of four U.S. soldiers and one Canadian soldier who passed away when a Taliban suicide bomber rammed a van loaded with explosives into an armored bus transporting NATO affiliates across Kabul. Also killed were American contractors and Afghan civilians, including children. 

“How could this happen to a social worker, our student,” Early said. “But indeed Dave was also a soldier. And while skilled social workers absorb the trauma of harm in others, dedicated soldier social workers also put themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of their clients.

“Future students will pass this plaque and wonder who the soldier was, but we should remember more of Dave,” she said. “He was a soldier of kindness with a servant’s heart — a true social worker, a loyal colleague, a loving husband and father, and a child of God gone home too soon who we miss.” 

—Katie Bahr, Assistant Director of Media Relations and Communications. Bahr can be reached at