As members of the U.S. Special Forces gathered near here Thursday to remember Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman, the first U.S. serviceman killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan, an Army commander urged Americans to understand the reasons for the three-month-old conflict.
"Think back to Sept. 11. Try and remember not where you were but how you felt. Most were angered, confused, felt lost, grief-stricken all at once," said Col. David P. Fridovich, commander of the 1st Special Forces Group.
"We reflected the same emotions Americans felt, but almost immediately we began to ask the following: What do you want us to do, and where do you want us to go?" Fridovich said. "How do we begin to fix this problem, to right this wrong, and ultimately help win the war against a new and different type of oppression?"
As Chinook helicopters flew low overhead, towing a rippling U.S. flag above the carpet of forest that surrounds the Ft. Lewis Army base, military leaders unveiled a memorial stone bearing Chapman's name along with those of 27 other group members killed since 1984.
Chapman, a 31-year-old Green Beret communications specialist with combat service in Haiti, Panama and the Persian Gulf War, died Jan. 4 near the town of Khowst when he and an unidentified CIA operative were slain by enemy fire after a meeting with local tribal elders. Though the details of the firefight have not been disclosed, there are some reports of the possible involvement of a 14-year-old Afghan in the shooting. The CIA agent was wounded.
Fridovich quoted a verse from Isaiah celebrating service to God. "Nathan Chapman heard the call no fewer than five times in his military career, and every time, without a second's hesitation, he said, 'Here I am. Send me.' It deeply saddens us here today, but we now have a new hero."
Chapman's wife, Renae, clutched her 2-year-old daughter, Amanda, on her lap and fought back tears as a sergeant called the roll for Chapman's unit at Ft. Lewis. As each name was called, a soldier would shout: "Here, sergeant major!"
"Sgt. 1st Class Chapman," he called. When there was no answer, he repeated: "Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman. Sgt. 1st Class Nathan R. Chapman." After a silence and a gun salute, taps was played. Sgt. Barry Sadler's 1966 hit "Ballad of the Green Berets" sounded from a loudspeaker.
Fridovich presented posthumous medals to Chapman's wife and teddy bears to Amanda and her 1-year-old brother, Brandon. Chapman's parents, Wilbur and Lynn Chapman, also were present.
In a video interview released by the Army, Renae Chapman said her husband believed strongly in the U.S. role in Afghanistan.
A funeral service was scheduled on the base this morning, followed by a procession to Tahoma National Cemetery.