Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman
Picture of Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman (HANDOUT VIA FAMILY / March 6, 2002)
Flags flew at half-staff throughout the state Wednesday in remembrance of Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman, the first Connecticut native to die in combat in the war in Afghanistan.
Volunteers also were out early Wednesday in his hometown of Windsor Locks putting up flags along a half-mile stretch of Main Street.
But it was a small, unexpected gesture that lodged in the mind of Lori McQueeney, Chapman's sister. McQueeney and her mother, Terry Giaccone, were returning Wednesday from a quick shopping trip when they noticed a bouquet on the back steps of Giaccone's home.
The flowers were from a local couple who said they had two children in the Armed Forces and wanted to express their condolence.
``We don't know them,'' McQueeney said. ``People are just being so good.''
Another neighbor stopped by, the kind of neighbor you don't really know, but wave to as you drive by. She had brought a card with money inside for Chapman's two young daughters, McQueeney said.
Chapman met his wife, Valerie, about 10 years ago when a buddy who was an Army Ranger invited him to spend a weekend in his hometown, Windber, Penn., in western Pennsylvania. Chapman's friend introduced him to Valerie one night when they went out.
``They hit it off from that minute,'' his mother recalled Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Chapman will be buried in the town where he met his wife.
Chapman, 36, served with the elite 24th Special Tactics Squadron based at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, where he lived with his wife and daughters, Madison, 5, and Brianna, 3.
He died Monday along with six other servicemen during a reconnaissance mission to gather information for ground commanders of Operation Anaconda, the largest U.S.-led ground assault of the war.
His family in Connecticut was initially told Chapman died from injuries he suffered when the Chinook helicopter he was in came under fire and was forced to make a crash landing. But a prolonged firefight ensued after the landing and all six servicemen died of gunshot wounds, said Marine Corps Major Ralph Mills with U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida.
Mills said he did not know at what point during the battle Chapman died. ``We will try to continue to piece things together,'' so families can know what happened, Mills said Wednesday.
A seventh serviceman died in another incident several hours earlier, making Monday one of the bloodiest days for U.S. combat forces during the five-month long war.
Windsor Locks First Selectman Edward A. Ferrari said dozens of people had called town hall seeking information Wednesday as a somber mood settled over the town.
``You see this constantly on TV,'' he said. ``You never think it's going to hit home and when it does, you're stunned.''