Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Chapman and his helicopter crew flew low across the sands of Saudi Arabia, attempting to evade enemy artillery after rescuing an injured soldier. Before they could get back to a medical facility, a sandstorm engulfed the helicopter. The pilots tried to land multiple times, but it was difficult to see. On their fourth attempt to land, the helicopter crashed into a sand dune. All seven service members on board died.
It’s been 28 years since that Operation Desert Storm rescue mission during the Persian Gulf War.
“The people who suffer the most are the ones who are left behind,” says Michael Chapman, Christopher’s brother.
Christopher, who was 25 years old at his death, was survived by his brothers, wife, daughter and two stepsons. He’s buried fewer than 20 yards away from his Eagle Scout project — a meditation area with a flagpole — in the Back Creek Church graveyard in Charlotte, N.C.
The Chapmans are a Scouting family; two of Christopher’s brothers and his nephew earned the Eagle award; Michael reached the Life rank.
Since his brother’s death, Michael has made it his mission to educate people about the meaning of Memorial Day, which is this coming Monday.
“It’s a day of remembrance and reverence, not a holiday or a big sales day,” Michael says. “On this day, we must honor our fallen soldiers and their families, and understand that these men and women died so that we can maintain our freedom.”
Christopher was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal and Air Medal with a “V” device for valor.
This Memorial Day
Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, has been observed since shortly after the Civil War. After World War I, the day morphed into a time to honor all military personnel who had died in war.
How can you and your Scouts honor those who served and sacrificed their lives for our country? Many units post small American flags at cemeteries. Read this article for advice:
Memorial Day is a day to fly the American flag at half-staff. Here’s how to do it:
The day is also a time to remind your Scouts about their duty to country. Read these articles for tips on teaching Scouts about the day: