Okinawa service salutes Nate Chapman 

a former Torii Station 

Green Beret killed in Afghanistan

1st Special Forces Group (Airborne)

By Carlos Bongioanni, Okinawa bureau Stars and Stripes Pacific edition, Sunday, January 13, 2002

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Carlos Bongioanni / S&S
Sgt. 1st Class Gordon Waugh and his wife, Pamela, mourn the loss of Sgt. 1st Class Nate Chapman during a memorial service Thursday at Torii Station, Okinawa, where Chapman was attached with the 1st Special Forces Group, 1st Battalion, from 1997 to May, 2001,


Carlos Bongioanni / S&S
Seven Special Forces soldiers stand at attention during the playing of "The Ballad of the Green Berets" after they gave a 21-gun salute in honor of fallen Green Beret Sgt. 1st Class Nate Chapman.

13 January 2002

TORII STATION — Three times Sgt. 1st Class "Nate" Chapman’s name was called.

Three times no one answered.

"Strike his name from the rolls," ordered Sgt. Maj. John Thomas, the team leader of Chapman’s former 12-man Special Forces detachment.

Then, in a packed Army chapel at Okinawa’s Torii Station, several hundred people stood to honor Nathan Ross Chapman, the first American servicemember killed by hostile fire in the war against terrorism. Chapman’s "final roll call," his photo beside a pair of boots and a weapon with a beret atop it, symbolized the finality of his death.

The blasts from seven assault rifles just outside the chapel shattered a brief moment of silence, causing some to flinch and others to cry. Each gun fired three times to salute the fallen Green Beret.

Chapman, 31, a former member of Torii’s 1st Special Forces Group, 1st Battalion, died Jan. 4 in an apparent ambush in eastern Afghanistan. He transferred last May from Okinawa to Fort Lewis, Wash., where two months ago he volunteered to serve in Operation Enduring Freedom.

He will receive the Bronze Star with valor, the second award of the combat infantryman’s badge with star and the Purple Heart for his actions in Afghanistan, said Lt. Col. David Maxwell, Chapman’s former commander at Torii.

"Greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for his friends," Maxwell said at the memorial service.

While the details of the ambush are not fully known, Maxwell said it is known that Chapman continued to fight while wounded. His actions directly helped save another wounded American and allowed the rest of his team to reach a rescue aircraft, Maxwell said.

"It doesn’t surprise me at all what Nate did," said Sgt. 1st Class Gordon Waugh, a friend and fellow Special Forces soldier. "We have a term called ‘switched on,’ which means we take things so seriously that we have blinders on to what would scare other people."

Once "switched on," Special Forces soldiers focus on accomplishing the mission at all cost to ensure that everybody who goes in comes out, Waugh said. When things don’t go as planned, they improvise and change their focus to whatever is of highest importance at the moment, he said.

"If you know you’re going to die, you keep on fighting to keep somebody else alive. … Based on what I’ve read and seen, Nate stuck with it to keep others alive," Waugh said. "I don’t think for a minute that he was a quitter. That’s just not in us. We don’t stop. When things get worse, we draw power from adversity. We dig in deeper."

As a member of a Special Forces 12-man squad, Chapman’s specialty was communications. But he also was on the unit’s sniper and scuba detachments.

He was a well-rounded soldier with many skills who often volunteered for the most difficult jobs, his peers said.

Chapman’s technical skills as a communications expert rivaled "those of all the techno-geeks at Microsoft," Maxwell said. "The difference between Nate and all the techno-geeks is that he could do it all at night, in the rain, in the worst possible conditions."

Chapman spent his free time with his wife, Renae, and two children, Amanda, 2, and Brandon, 1, Maxwell said. Both children were born on Okinawa.

Before Chapman, from San Antonio, volunteered to go to Afghanistan, he told his wife he wouldn’t go if she didn’t want him to, she said in a recorded interview that aired on several U.S. broadcast networks.

"I asked him, ‘How important is it? Do you want to go?’ And he said, ‘Yes, it is me. I have to go.’"

Renae Chapman said she received a satellite telephone call from her husband while he was on the ground in Afghanistan. He told her of women and children getting beaten with sticks for walking outside, she said. His purpose for being there, he told her, was to make a difference in the world and fight against the oppression he saw.

"Nate was the type of individual who definitely touched everybody because of his personality," said Sgt. 1st Class Corey Capone, who knew him for 12 years. "He truly had one of those personalities that everybody took to because he always had comedy relief wherever he went … could definitely count on him for entertainment."

Capone said he was stationed with Chapman at Fort Lewis in the 2nd Ranger Battalion from 1989 to 1992. They went through the Special Forces selection process within a few months of each other and have been stationed in the same commands throughout their careers.

"Somebody like Nate, … it’s hard to see him get caught off guard and being in a situation where he got himself killed."

"He was one heck of a warrior and friend," remarked Sgt. Maj. Thomas after the memorial service. "He’ll be missed."

Maxwell said the 1st Special Forces Group at Torii Station has asked the Army to name the battalion’s new facility that is to be constructed next year the Nate Chapman Special Forces Complex.

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