A somewhat sad choice for today’s SOF Pic of the Day.

I’ve chosen to highlight the repatriation of the remains of Sergeant First Class Nathan R. Chapman. The image shows an honor guard from the 1st Special Forces Group moving Chapman’s flag-draped coffin at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in January 2002.   His final resting place is at Tahoma National Cemetary in Kent, Washington. It’s damn hard to believe that was 22 years ago.

SFC Chapman on a CH-53 Sea Stallion in November of 2001. Image Credit: Scott Satterlee

Remembering Nathan Chapman

Nathan Ross Chapman was born on April 23, 1970, and tragically fell to enemy fire on  January 4, 2002.  He was a Sergeant First Class in the United States Army, serving with the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). Chapman holds the somber distinction of being the first U.S. soldier to lose his life due to enemy actions during the war in Afghanistan.

Born at Andrews Air Force Base to Wilbur and Lynn Chapman, Nathan’s early life was marked by frequent relocations across the United States due to his father’s military assignments. He completed his high school education at Centerville High School near Dayton, Ohio. Though he enlisted in the military, claiming San Antonio, Texas, as his hometown, a place he never lived in, although it held sentimental value for him as the residence of his grandparents.

Chapman’s impressive military career, spanning over a decade, saw him actively engaged in various international conflicts. His service record includes participation in Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989, where he was involved in airborne operations and engagement in the Persian Gulf War. Subsequently, he was selected for the Army Special Forces, training at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, Chapman was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group at what was then called Fort Lewis in Washington. His final mission involved directing troop movements from a flatbed truck when he tragically fell to enemy fire. This incident also resulted in injuries to a CIA Paramilitary Operations Officer from the Special Activities Division.

For his bravery and service, Chapman was honored posthumously with prestigious awards, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In tribute to his sacrifice, Forward Operating Base Chapman was named in his memory.

In a significant recognition on May 18, 2015, the CIA acknowledged Chapman’s involvement with a covert six-person unit, “Team Hotel.” He was posthumously honored with a star on the CIA’s memorial wall, commemorating his contributions to national security and his ultimate sacrifice. Chapman had been officially detailed to the Agency (CIA) in the weeks following 9/11 and was functioning for them as a communications specialist.