FORT LEWIS, Wash. – Hundreds of soldiers and family members stood under drizzling skies Thursday to memorialize Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman, the first American killed by enemy fire in Afghanistan.
"It deeply saddens me today, but we now have a new hero," Col. David T. Fridovich, commander of the 1st Special Forces Group at Fort Lewis, said before Chapman was awarded military honors and his name was added to a granite memorial of other members of the Special Forces who had been killed.
Chapman, 31, a married father of two from nearby Puyallup, was killed last Friday by small-arms fire during an ambush near Khost, a few miles from the Pakistan border. He and a CIA agent, who was wounded, had been meeting with local tribal leaders.
His widow, Renae, his parents and his children attended the ceremony in a small cul-de-sac in front of Special Forces headquarters. The circle, which had been named Commander's Circle, was renamed Chapman's Circle in the slain soldier's honor.
In her husband's absence, Mrs. Chapman accepted the combat infantryman's badge, the Purple Heart, and a Bronze Star with valor. She held back tears as her 2-year-old daughter, sat, wrapped in a blanket, on her lap.
Fridovich said Chapman eagerly answered the call to serve in Afghanistan.
"Try and remember not where you were on Sept. 11, but how you felt," Fridovich told mourners. "Here, as in other U.S. military units, we reflected the same emotions as the rest of America, but almost immediately began to ask the following: What do you want us to do and where do you want us to go to begin to fix this problem? By envisioning this, you begin to understand the motivation that drives men such as Nathan Chapman."
Chapman had volunteered for the duty. He was a Green Beret communications specialist who parachuted into Panama during the U.S. invasion there and also served in Haiti and the Gulf War.
After graduating from Special Forces school at Fort Bragg, N.C., he spent most of his career at Fort Lewis, where he was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, he was reassigned to the 5th Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Ky.
Chapman was born at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. His father, who retired after 21 years in the Air Force, said he didn't know his son was interested in a military career until he joined the Army upon his 1988 graduation from high school in Centerville, Ohio.
Chapman's parents, Will and Lynn Chapman, left their home in Georgetown, Texas, to comfort Chapman's widow and children, 2-year-old Amanda, and 1-year-old Brandon. A funeral service was scheduled for Friday, and Chapman will be buried at Tahoma National Cemetery in the south Seattle suburb of Kent.
During Thursday's ceremony, Chapman's widow accompanied Col. Fridovich to unveil a granite memorial outside Special Forces headquarters. Chapman's name was added to the memorial after that of Maj. Wallace Cole Hogan Jr., 40, who died in the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon.
After the monument was revealed, Command Sgt. Maj. Jody Nacy called out the roll call for the 3rd Battalion. Everyone replied, "Here, Sergeant Major," until Nacy reached Chapman's name.
"Sgt. First Class Chapman."
There was silence.
"Sgt. First Class Nathan Chapman."
"Sgt. First Class Nathan R. Chapman."
The only answer was a 21-gun salute, fired by members of the 3rd Battalion.
Then, as the smell of gun powder drifted over the mourners, the brass band played "Taps." Four military helicopters flew overhead, the lead helicopter trailing an American flag, as a recording of "The Ballad of the Green Berets" was played in the background.
The Army's Special Forces have been advising, arming, training and coordinating with local Afghan forces since the military campaign began Oct. 7.
Before Chapman, the only U.S. military members killed inside Afghanistan were three Green Berets mistakenly hit last month by a U.S. airstrike north of Kandahar. In October, two Army Rangers were killed when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Pakistan.
A CIA operative, Johnny "Mike" Spann, was killed Nov. 25 in an uprising of Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan. Seven Marines were killed when their plane crashed Wednesday.