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The Funeral Of Sgt. 1st Class Nathan R. Chapman, U.S. Army

Aired January 11, 2002 - 13:07   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's now go back to Washington, Fort Lewis, Washington. The services honoring Lieutenant (sic) Nathan Chapman, who was the first American who died in the combat in Afghanistan. The services under way, and right now, he's being eulogized and his biography is being read by Lieutenant Colonel Griffin. Let's listen in.


LT. COL. GRIFFIN, U.S. ARMY: ...First Battalion. First Special Forces Group Airborne in Okinawa, Japan. He served there for three years as member of Operational Detachment A-125 and Operational Detachment A-135. In June 2001, Sergeant Chapman returned to Third Battalion, First Special Forces Group Airborne, and become a member of Operational Detachment A-194. In November 2001, Sergeant Chapman volunteered for a special mission in Afghanistan, where he participated in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sergeant First Class Chapman was killed in action on January 4th, 2002, near the town of Khowst, Afghanistan. Sergeant Chapman was a highly decorated combat veteran, whose awards and decorations include: The Bronze Star With "B" Device; The Purple Heart; The Meritorious Service Medal; The Army Commendation Medal With Oak Leaf Cluster; The Army Achievement Medal With Three Oak Leaf Clusters; The Humanitarian Service Medal; The United Nations Medal; The Kuwait Liberation Medal; The Southwest Asia Service Medal With Bronze Service Star; The Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal With Arrowhead; The Army Good Conduct Medal, Third Award; The Army Superior Unit Award; The Combat Infantry Badge, Second Award; The Master Parachutist Badge; The Parachutist Badge, Combat With Bronze Service Star; The Special Forces Combat Diver Badge; The Special Forces Tab; And The Royal Thai Army Parachutist Badge.

Sergeant First Class Chapman is survived by his wife, Renae, his daughter, Amanda, his son, Brandon. And his parents Will and Lynn Chapman.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will now have a series of eulogies by the commander, teammates and friends of Nate Chapman.

MAJ. JOHN MARAIA, U.S. ARMY: I'm Major John Myers and I (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Nate was both a gifted soldier and a great guy. I first met him in January 1993. We were students in the same Tagala (ph) class back at Fort Bragg. We's just graduated from the "Q" course and there were seven of us in the classroom. We were cooped up together for six hours a day, five days a week, for five months. Nate's sense of humor was one of the few things that kept us from going stir crazy and jumping out the window. Well, his humor, and the fact that our classroom was in a one-story building.

After graduation, we both reported her to First Group. He came to Third Battalion and I went to Second Battalion. I would often see him on the compound or on a jump over the next couple of years, while we were both here at Fort Lewis. What I'll always remember about Nate, is that every conversation we had ended in laughter. He's just -- had a great, outgoing personality and a sense of humor that belied the fact that he was a dedicated and serious professional soldier.

I returned to First Group this past June. On my first day of in- processing, I went into Waller Hall, and when I got there overjoyed to see Nate's familiar face, and learned that he too had returned to Fort Lewis and would be joining me in Charlie Company. Being his company commander gave me a chance to work with him and see him on a daily basis. Invariably, I'd see Nate with his hands stuck firmly in his pockets, his patrol cap kicked back on his head, in classic Nate style, like you'll see on the doors to the chapel as you enter, laughing and telling jokes as he strolled down the hall.

And that's the image that I'll always carry with me. I only recall seeing Nate angry once. It was September 12th or 13th. We were in Thailand, and like everyone else, we were trying to come to grips with the events of September 11th. Everyone was extremely worked up. Nate pulled me aside and vented for a while. He was adamant that we needed to do something. That we needed to strike back at those who had attacked us, and he wanted to get into that fight.

So, I was not surprised to hear that when the call went out for volunteers, Nate said, "Send me." Those of us who've known Nate have lost a lot. We have lost a comrade and a friend. But those who never had a chance to get to know him have lost much, much more.

SGT. 1ST CLASS ROGER THOMPSON, U.S. ARMY: Please let me introduce myself. I'm Sergeant First Class Roger Thompson. Detachment Medic for A-194, Nate's team. To my right, is my lovely wife Jennifer and the remaining teammates and their wives.

If you ever had the opportunity to meet Nate, you could realize how easy it was to be drawn in by his personality. If you ever had the opportunity to work with Nate, you'd realize his dedication and his commitment to the mission. Having personally had the opportunity to meet him, to work with him, and live with him on a day-in, day-out basis, I find myself extremely lucky.

What you'll hear today amongst these, is many stories about Nate and how well he -- how great he excelled in the military. Standing up here, writing eulogy for him, I pondered over many stories. And one I's like to share with you, a personal story on his off time. I'd planned to take a skiing trip up to Mount Baker, snowboarding. Somehow Nate invited himself along. At the time, I really didn't know Nate that well. We had graduated the "Q" Course together, but I'd only met him a few times. My first impression was a guy who was extremely overconfident about his snowboarding abilities. On the way up to the ski resort, my Land Cruiser, it was an older one, and I couldn't seem to get the rear heater fixed on it. He was sitting in the back. He's made every attempt to work on it but to no avail. It wasn't a far trip to Mt. Baker, so the guys in the back didn't suffer too bad.

During the day, we made run after run down the hill. Nate always -- always wanted to lead the way. I can remember him yelling up to us, "Please" -- actually, "Catch up!" He told us to follow him through the tree, over and around the rocks. Over the -- pretty much, he was the man in charge that day.

When the day wore on, we started getting tired for the last run, Nate stopped me and told me to follow and stay close to him. I followed him through the trees and over the rocks and down a steep slope where he made an abrupt stop. I had no place to go, so I wiped out, and I slid across his snowboard. Needless to say, he wasn't too happy about that. And he began to school me on the etiquettes of the slopes of the SF style.

Well, on the way home, he was cracking jokes like he always does, the entire day, and he was making fun of how well I snowboarded. With my Land Cruiser running cold anyway and the heater not working in the back, I knew those guys had a long, wet and cold ride home. But all I could out -- all I could do was look out and smile at the 14-degree weather. What I'd failed to inform Nate was that, while loading the vehicle I figured how to run the heater in the back. Needless to say, it was 80 miles of payback.


When we returned back to Fort Lewis and he pulled me aside, he was smiling from ear to ear. He said he had one of the greatest days snowboarding with me, and I asked him -- he asked me if we could go up the next week.

I knew right then that this guy was going to be my good friend. When I think of my friend, Nate, the father, the special forces soldier and the real-life warrior, and what he is doing right now and what he is saying right now, this is what comes to my mind.

Nate is watching high above us, in his holy sniper position. Doing what he does best, covering our backs. He's broadcasting wideband to each and everyone of us that he started something, and it's our dedicated duty as friends and soldiers to finish it.

MST. SGT. BILL ADAMS, U.S. ARMY: My name is Master Sergeant Bill Adams. My wife and I are good friends of the Chapmans, and I was Nate's scuba team mate for a long time. I was finding it very difficult to figure out what I was going to say today. Kept thinking about Nate and wondering what he would do. Then I thought, "I know what he'd do. He'd lighten up the situation." He had the ability to lighten up any situation.

I remember one time when we were in Haiti. We were on the roof of our house one Saturday morning getting some sun. Nate got up and grabbed a bucket of water from the cistern and dumped it over his head to cool himself. Just as he threw that bucket over his head to cool himself, you could see a helicopter fly by at low level, and it was full of a bunch of VIPs. I was thinking that we'd be in trouble for laying out in the sun. Just then, Nate threw a bucket of water over his head, and he began running in place and singing, "MANIAC, MANIAC,"


at the top of his lungs. You could see the smile on the VIPs faces that day and nothing was ever said about sunbathing. Nate had the ability to brighten up any situation, and he used his good nature as a force multiplier. It was one of the many talents that he brought to work with him. It's why so many people enjoyed working with Nate. Nate was one of the true, quiet professionals. He stood head and shoulders above everyone, even though stood with the best. His ability to break tension extended far past his team.

If he were looking at this scene, I wonder what he would say to Renae. I believe that he would say nothing. That he would just walk over to her and give her a big shoulder to cry on. He'd tell her that it would be all right, even though he knew it wouldn't be all right. He's not here. I wish to God he were. Now it's up to all of us to help Nate out. Because you know, he would do the same for you.

He never left any slack, so we must do what has never been done before. We have to pick up Nate's slack. We need to help Renae and Amanda and Brandon. We need to show them that it' going to be all right. Even though we know it's not. We miss you brother, and we are here to help. Thank you.

SGT. 1ST CLASS CRAIG FORSTER, U.S. ARMY: Morning. I'm Sergeant First Class Forster, and I'll be reading some memories and thoughts from Nate's brother Keith Chapman.

"Nathan Chapman has been described as a challenging child, and I should know. For 16 years he was a daily challenge in my life. Even though I was the older brother, he was the one who always did the torturing. I often felt like destruction was all that interested him. When I built something from our LEGO building blocks, he only wanted to see how he could arrange it's annihilation."

"When a friend had some plastic planes he didn't want any more, Nathan brought out model rocket engines to blast them into the sky for one final flight. But in the end, he knew better than anyone how to build and protect something enduring."

"It seems that ever since we left home I've only been trying to catch up with him. He's always shown the confidence and strength I could only hope for. He was the first to find a loving and devoted wife and the first to have children. I have always felt like he was too headstrong and impatient, but I know now that he must have always known that there are some things that you just shouldn't wait."

"He knew what they where, and he went and grabbed them. And I will always remember that." SGT. 1ST CLASS GREG SANTIAGO, U.S. ARMY: Morning. Sergeant 1st Class Greg Santiago. Teammate and member of ODA-194. I'm going to read to you today, a letter on behalf of Nate's brother, David Chapman.

"I never got an opportunity to spend much of my adult life getting to know Nathan. In fact, the few times that we did get to see each other were usually somber events, like the passing of our paternal grandmother a few years ago. That was the first time I saw firsthand what a fine young man he had turned into."

"I distinctly remember when he appeared at the funeral home in his full military uniform, making the rest of us brothers look like a bunch of slobs in our suits. Every eye was on him that day, as I came -- as I am sure it was most days. He had a way of brightening a room and lifting everyone's spirits. Even in very sad times. That occasion reminded me of some of his characteristics that I had always admired in him as he grew up -- as he was growing up."

"First and foremost was his huge smile. He had a smile that you couldn't help but like and a fantastic inner strength and warmth. Take one look at him and you couldn't help but notice the confidence he exuded, and yet, at the same time, he had a tremendous compassion about him. He was indeed a very special person."

"I recall in one of our conversations, we four brothers had at the funeral of grandmother, Nathan expressed a desire for all of us to stay in touch and to get to know each other more, now that we were all grown up. Unfortunately, that did not happen. As usually happens, when people live great distances apart, when we were on our own separate ways, and seldom stayed in touch, except for the very infrequent card or letter."

"I terribly regret not taking the opportunity to get to know my brother and his family better. But somehow, with his passing, I feel I have gotten to know him more than ever -- than I ever could have. I also know that today he's looking down on us and giving us all a great big Nathan smile, as only he could do. I know this because Nathan was able to live his life the way he wanted to. Doing what was important to him, and starting a beautiful family along the way. No one could ask for anything more. God bless you, Nathan, and your wonderful family."

GRIFFIN: Ladies and gentlemen, the Commander of the United States Army Special Forces Command, Major General Lambert.

MAJ. GEN. GEOFFREY LAMBERT, CMDR., UNITED STATES ARMY SPECIAL FORCES COMMAND: We gather here today to honor Sergeant First Class Nathan R. Chapman. And I thank you, Neil and Evelyn, and I thank you, Lynn, and I thank you, Will, for letting us have your son for a short time. Neil, you're one of the greatest generation. You started your career in the Army Air Corps, and then changed to the Air Force, and, Will, you spent a career in the Air Force. And thank you for -- through your lives and your interaction with Nathan as a young man, embedding the values of the armed forces in that fine fellow. Thank you. So as he grew, he also become a great patriot. And he decided to become a warrior. And as a young man, straight out of high school, he joined the United States Army Second Ranger Battalion, and in a short time, he was in the middle of the night, floating in the air with a parachute. Enemy tracer fire under his feet, as he fell to the ground in his first operation in Panama.

He turned quickly to be an infantryman in the United States Army, and Third Battalion 47th Infantry went to Desert Storm, changed to being an Army Green Beret. And continued raising his hand, going to Haiti. And then, a few months ago, he raised his hand for the fourth time. And that was to go to Afghanistan as a volunteer to assist his brothers in the Fifth Special Forces Group.

Now he's gone. At 31 years of age, and in his time in the Army, short though it may have been, this warrior saw more combat and conflict than most men do in a lifetime in our business.

He's a legend. He eats on the way to meals, I've been told. His metabolism matched his incredible energy that he had in all activities. He was a world-class athlete. He was so strong that it was scary. He could make communication anywhere in the world with a string and a tin cup, and he was one heck of a snipper and could shoot 1,500 meter shots.

But his greatest contribution was what he did to every team when he entered it. He was absolutely intolerant of anyone not being the best. And one of his A-team leaders came up and told me, he said, "I had to get up earlier in the morning to serve with that subordinate sergeant, because he wanted all to be the best and wouldn't accept anything in second place." So he raised the bar for everybody that he was around, but had them laughing in stitches all the way as they were working harder and harder and harder

He was even a good dancer. But there was a downside, I know. I want to tell the truth now. He's -- intell had -- this is good intell now -- is, it was Renae's jokes that he stole all the time for all those parties. And it was his sense of timing and delivery that made him carry the day. So the truth is now out. I wanted you to know that. Anyway, he had a saying, which was sort of his mantra. And the mantra, both at home and at work was, "Stand up and do something." Probably worth a tattoo on some team member someday.

The outpouring of sympathy and grief is overwhelming. I received a call from John Molham the ranking Green Beret officer in Afghanistan, his direct boss, and told me that he had done the same thing he done for John in Okinawa. He had proven, in five weeks, that he was absolutely the best. And he wanted you to hear that today.

His old company commander's come 3,000 miles -- his former company commander's come 3,000 miles to be here. Some of his teammates assisting with the casket today have come 5,000 miles. The phone hasn't stopped ringing. The letters will keep coming for a long, long time for this great American.

His legacy, I can -- I can see it. I can see Amanda. I can see Brandon. I can see a democratic Panama. I can see a liberated Kuwait. I can see a small girl going into elementary school in Kabul. I can see a woman getting medical treatment in Khowst, and I can see terrorism on the run.

On September the 11th, 2001, in the foul attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, one Green Beret officer was killed. That man had been Nate's team leader. And right now they're affecting what we call "link-up" in the sky, and I think they're both looking down on us. And I think they're both wishing their Green Beret brothers well in this fight against this horrible evil that has just begun.

Nate, I promise the Green Berets will stand up, and we will do something. And we'll do it with distinction. God bless you.

GRIFFIN: Will everyone please stand.

We will now sing the hymn "Amazing Grace." The four stanzas we will sing are in the back cover of your program. We'll have an introduction bagged -- by the bagpipers, and then join in with me when I start, please.




HARRIS: Sergeant First Class Nathan Chapman being remembered today in Fort Lewis, Washington, and some of the emotional words that we heard today. You know, he was described as a "gifted soldier" and a "great guy." The kind of person who was full of personality. The kind of person who carried himself with an air of confidence, and yet also an air of compassion as well, we heard today.

He was such a positive force in fact, that he was known for telling jokes that quite -- all the time, as a matter of fact, from what we hear today. The fact that he was so positive, that it turns out that one of the eulogizers there, remembered the date of the only time he had ever seen Nathan Chapman angry, and that is quite remarkable. You had no choice but to enjoy this man's company.

His excellence as a soldier evidenced by the number of decorations that he had received. I lost count at about 12 or 13. Communications specialist and sniper as well. In fact, one of his friends said that he is now in his "holy sniper position."

So often, we here at CNN deliver you news about men like this when they fall. Now you know him as a person.





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