Remembering Nathan Chapman, 1st U.S. Soldier Killed In Afghanistan War As the U.S. pulls its troops out of Afghanistan, family members of Nathan Chapman remember the decorated veteran, who was killed in action at age 31 on Jan. 4, 2002.

A Family Remembers The 1st U.S. Soldier Killed In The War In Afghanistan

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Time now for StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative, recording and sharing the stories of service members and their families. Today, in a week in which U.S. soldiers died in Kabul along with Afghan civilians, we remember the first American soldier who was killed in combat during the war in Afghanistan, 31-year-old Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman. He was killed January 4, 2002. A Green Beret in the Special Forces, he was working as a communication specialist. His mother and brother, Keith Chapman and Lynn Chapman, came to StoryCorps to remember the complicated relationship between brothers and the things that can sometimes be left unsaid.

LYNN CHAPMAN: We were sitting around with our fingers crossed that he was going to graduate from high school, and - but he did because he knew that if he didn't, he wouldn't be able to get into the Army.

KEITH CHAPMAN: When September 11 happened, did you know that he was going to be doing what he was doing?

L CHAPMAN: Well, in some ways, I was so clueless about all that because he was in Special Forces. But then on Christmas Day, he called us, and he couldn't say where he was. But somehow, he told us what the time was. And then it was obvious where he must have been.

K CHAPMAN: I don't remember that we said very much. I wouldn't have imagined it was our last conversation. So two weeks later, I'm sitting in a traffic light listening to the news on the radio. And it says that a soldier has been killed in Afghanistan. And I think, well, yes, Nathan is there, but he's one of who knows how many. So I put it out of my mind. And then when I get home, my wife greets me at door and says, I have bad news. It was my birthday. And I said, oh, you burned the cake. She says, no. Your father called. That was the moment that it was clear what had happened.

L CHAPMAN: You knew then.

K CHAPMAN: I knew then. This was the first death by enemy fire.

L CHAPMAN: You know, people take on a larger-than-life quality when things like this happen. But I think of him as a son and a child and then a soldier. I don't see him as a symbol. In some way, that takes him away from me.

K CHAPMAN: You know, as children, I was very studious, and I had trouble making friends. But he was more outgoing. And at the time, I felt like he was too different from me to really understand what was really good about him. So he didn't withdraw from me. I think, if anything, I withdrew from him.

L CHAPMAN: If you could tell him something now, what would you tell him?

K CHAPMAN: There was an opportunity at his funeral to provide words to be spoken, but I wasn't able to come up with what was really important. I've thought about it over the years, and the thing that I would say instead was that there were times when I thought of Nathan as less than me and that I was wrong. There were times when I thought and even said to him that he would never amount to anything, and I was wrong. Everything he wanted to do was important and meaningful.

L CHAPMAN: It's OK, Keith. I think a lot of siblings come to a greater understanding as they mature. Had you been given the time, you guys, you would have a chance to say everything you wanted. So that's what's really sad about somebody dying young. You lose all that future.


SIMON: Lynn Chapman with her son Keith remembering Army Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman. He was the first U.S. soldier to be killed in combat during the war in Afghanistan. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star.


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