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Soldier's widow calls him 'quiet professional'

Renae Chapman
Renae Chapman  

FORT LEWIS, Washington (CNN) -- The widow of Army Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman, the first U.S. soldier to die from hostile fire in Afghanistan, said Tuesday that her late husband was "a quiet professional who just wanted to change the world."

"He gave everything he had, everywhere he went, to everyone he knew. And he wanted to make everybody happy," Renae Chapman said in a videotaped interview conducted by the Army.

Sgt. Chapman's remains are expected to return to the Seattle area early Wednesday morning on a commercial airline flight from Germany. A funeral service has been scheduled for Friday at Fort Lewis near Tacoma, where he spent much of his 13-year military career.

Chapman, 31, volunteered for the mission in Afghanistan that took his life, and, before leaving, had told his wife that there was a 50-50 chance that he would not return. He also told her that, as a volunteer, he could change his mind about the mission and would not go if she really wanted him to stay.

"I asked him, 'How important is it? Do you want to go?' And he said, 'Yes, it is ... I have to go,'" she said. "The day he left, we all cried and cried."

The widow of Sgt. Nathan Chapman reflects on the life of her husband, the first member of the U.S. Special Forces killed in combat (January 9)

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But despite her husband's death on the battlefield, she said that being a member of the Army's elite Special Forces unit was part of who he was, and "I wouldn't have had him any other way."

"He found a group of men like himself that were willing to do the same thing, fight the same fight," she said. "Everything that made him strong and soft is what he was. You can't take one away from the other. He was intense there, he was intense here."

In addition to his wife, Sgt. Chapman leaves behind two small children, ages 2 and 1. Renae Chapman said her children as of yet "don't understand that he's not coming home." Other Special Forces members from the base have come to the house to play with the children to keep them occupied, she said.

"They've surrounded us in a bubble of light so that my children wouldn't have to mourn their father over and over again," she said.

Chapman died Friday after being hit by small arms fire after leaving a meeting with local tribal chiefs near the Afghan city of Gardez. A CIA agent who was part of the same team was wounded. The team had been working in the region for only a short time, trying to make friends with local tribes and learn more about the movements of al Qaeda in the region.

While Pentagon officials had initially termed the shooting a deliberate ambush, officials backed off from that position Tuesday, saying they have not yet determined if the shooting was pre-planned.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.




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