Soldiers: Husbands, Sons and Fathers
( and, of course, some are Wives, Daughters and Mothers today )
What image comes to your mind when someone says soldier? It may be your own image from when you were in the military or it may be your spouse. It may be that of some invincible hero type with guns and grenades and a scene with a John Wayne type charging up some hill. It may be a soldier hanging one leg out of a helicopter over a hot zone in a combat area.
Maybe it is a Sergeant York image from World war I. A man who said on his enlistment form, “I don’t want to fight.” Yet he went on to become a celebrated true American Hero doing unbelievable acts of courage and heroism in the face of the enemy. He was one of 11 children from an impoverished family in rural Tennessee.
Or, maybe it is Audi Murphy who was the most decorated hero of World War II who looked more like a leading man in a western movie than an actual soldier doing real shooting and ducking real bullets and being wounded.
It seems in every war or “conflict” as we have come to call them, someone emerges as a bona fide hero with medals to prove it. And, it turns out, they usually don’t look like John Wayne at all. They do look like someone’s son, husband, or father. Maybe an uncle or a neighbor. Some of the one’s I know with multiple purple hearts and post-traumatic stress (like Audi Murphy) look nothing like a war hero and not even like a soldier. And, today, some of them are looking more and more like someone’s mother, wife or girlfriend,
My great, great grandfather Taylor Samuel Chapman was a private in Company “F”, 57h Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry Crawford County, Georgia. “Bragg Rifles”. Like most soldiers of his time and most since, he was in the army because he was called on to do it. I have no indications that he was political minded zealot who wanted to go out and shoot people. In fact, he had a wife and four kids to support and that was hard to do serving in the Army of the Confederacy (Or the Union Army, for that matter.)
I have a friend that was in some of the fiercest fighting in Vietnam. On one evening 15 of his comrades died around him. He received three Purple Hearts from his activities, was subjected to agent orange spraying and said he woke up one morning walking around in a daze saying, “What am I doing here? I’m supposed to be in law school.” He never set out to go to war and fight and kill people or watch his fellow soldiers get killed, but there he was.
His life was saved when the helicopter he was on was overloaded and the pilot wanted some people to get off after he had waited all day for a ride. Someone behind him put their foot in his back and kicked him out of the helicopter about 10 feet above the ground and threw his duffle bag out behind him. He landed hard on the tarmac. He was coming back from R&R after previously being wounded.
The helicopter flew out of sight and only the next day did he learn that it had struck some high tension lines near the Da Nang air base and crashed: killing everyone on board. Being “kicked out” had saved his life.
My great, great, grandfather from somewhere around Sandy Point wrote his wife a letter while he was in Alabama on June 2, 1862 and I have a copy of it below. It is written to faithfully depict the actual letter, spelling and all. If you take a minute to read it you will not see a blood thirsty soldier on a mission to go kill some “yanks”. Rather, you see a sick and homesick young man facing the possibility of never coming home and who says to his wife, “I hope to see you again, but if we never meet and write again you must try and meet me in Heaven.” I hope he did because a few days later, on September 1862, he died in Richmond, Kentucky from his illness, never to return again.
So it’s Veterans day again. And we keep creating them in all shapes, sizes, religions, races, and sexes. And they look like sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, daughters, and wives. And they go where they are sent and some never return. Some are never the same. Some, and many would say all, are heroes. And the rest of us say “Thank you.”
A Letter From A Confederate Soldier, 1862
Gordon Co. Camp Randolph June 2/62
It is again that I seat myself to let you know that I am very unwell at this time but I hope this will find you well. I received your kind letter today and was glad to hear you were well. I have got the worst cold I did have in my life. I was sorry to hear about John. I hope he is gone to rest you must not grieve you must try and get along as well as you must pray for me that I may have a safe return I can’t tell whether this will get off or not I hope it will but if we never meet and write again you must try and meet me in heaven I want to see you the most in the wuld but a lot we are a long wase a part we haven’t had rain since we have been here until today it is raining at this time you must not greve about John for it is too late he is gon and I hope he is at rest Jimmie and John is well at this time while I amwriting the Nichols boys and a good many more are singing ind anuther tent it makes me think of Ga. and john at Old Bethel but those verses will never be herd there again. Washington Becham will be sent home and the doctor sed he recommend he discharge me iff he dus I will come home sune as I can get home. I haven’t been able to do much since I have bin her I want to know what has become of Otus I haven’t herd a wurd from Giles since I left home. You sed you haven’t got a leter from me I written to you next day after I got them you must write after you get this and let me her from you all I will write ever time I can get the chance well I must bring my leter to a close for this time write sune nothing more at this time only remands your kind husbin until death
T S Chapman
Back your leters Gordin Cont Ga. Camp Randolph Calhoun Post the care of Capt J.F. Vinson commanding Company F Barkalus regament