As President Obama slowly brings the war in Afghanistan to a close, it’s appropriate to remember all of those who gave their lives so we could continue to enjoy liberty here at home. Although some of the names of those who died Operation Enduring Freedom are famous, such as former professional football player Pat Tillman, others are far less so, yet no less deserving of remembrance. For instance, do you know who Nathan Chapman was? You should! He was the first American soldier to die in the War on Terror that began after the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
United States Army Sergeant First Class Nathan Ross Chapman, a member of the Fort Lewis 1st Special Forces group, was thirty-one years old when he was killed in Afghanistan, near the city of Khost. He was a specialist in communications and was aiding members of the Fort Campbell 5th Special Forces Group Chapman in their attempt to recruit tribal rulers, Afghanistan’s so-called warlords, in order to help locate Osama Bin Laden. The hero was issuing orders from the rear of an army truck in January 4th, 2002, when an unknown assailant struck, shooting both him and a CIA officer. He didn’t die immediately, only succumbing to his wounds later. He posthumously received both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Chapman’s father was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base. His young son moved around the country frequently, but considered San Antonio, where his grandparents lived, to be his spiritual home, even though he had never resided there. In fact, when he enlisted in the army at the age of eighteen, he declared San Antonio to be his hometown.
Nathan Chapman was survived by both his parents, his wife Renae, and his two children Brandon and Amanda. His family has largely sought to avoid the media spotlight, allowing Will Chapman, Nathan’s father, to be their spokesperson when necessary. Two-and-a-half years ago, on the ten year anniversary of the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Air Force veteran spoke out, saying that he supports the war in Afghanistan and the ongoing mission there. “We’ve lost a lot of men since Nathan,” he stated at that time in an interview with the press. “This country has paid a high price. But I wonder what kind of price we would have had to pay if we had not done something to remove those people. I suspect that, left unchallenged, they would have done more damage then they were able to do.”
A military base in Khost, Afghanistan is name after the fallen hero. Forward Operating Base Chapman, also known simply as Camp Chapman, was constructed on the site of a military installation previously utilized by Afghan army forces. Camp Chapman became famous in 2009 when a suicide bomber linked to Al-Qaeda blew himself up inside, killing seven CIA officers. The sacrifices of these fallen heroes echo Nathan Chapman’s own sacrifice in January of 2002.
It’s easy to call someone a hero, or to declare yourself one. Actually being a hero is something else entirely. Nathan Chapman gave his life so we can continue to enjoy the freedom that we often take for granted here at home. The next time someone mentions American heroism, be sure to bring up the name Nathan Chapman. It’s unlikely he sought to become a hero, but he will forever be remembered as one by those who take the time to acquaint themselves with his story.
Thomas Davis – NEWSslinger Contributor