“He left an impression”

 Jonesborough resident plans trip to France for dad’s WWII honors

Published in Herald & Tribune Sept. 3, 2014 issue

A Jonesborough resident will travel to France the second week of September to attend a special ceremony for his father who served in the U.S. Army in World War II.

“It is really an honor to have a street named after your dad,” Bill Chapman said.

Chapman will leave for France with his youngest son, brother and his wife and two children, on Sept. 7. The following Sunday, Sept. 14, the ceremony will take place in honor of his father, Robert Chapman.

“He left an impression and a lot of memorabilia behind,” he said of his father. The memorabilia included such items as his wallet and flight jacket.

Chapman said a group of WWII historians who dig up wreckages found the memorabilia left behind, which will be used for the presentation.

His father was raised in central California, attended San Jose State University on a basketball scholarship before leaving school in 1942 when he decided he wanted to serve his country and be a part of the war effort.

Chapman said his father had wanted to fly his whole life, but results from a physical showed that he was color blind. That prohibited him from flying an airplane.

“He wanted to stay in the Army Air Corps and become a radio operator,” Chapman said, adding that his father was assigned to a B-26 Mark Marauder named Pistol Packing Mama that held a crew of six.

The crew had a year of training before they were sent overseas. By Aug. 6, 1944, Chapman said, they had lost their bombardier, and a new man was assigned to the plane.

“They were supposed to have flown a mission on the sixth,” he said.

The new guy had only been trained on a B-17, Chapman said, so his father who had become a bit of jack of all trades, spent an hour the they were waiting for clearance to fly because of the weather to teach the new man how to drop bombs out of the B-26.

The crew flew the mission without a hitch, but on Aug. 9, 1944, the tables turned even though the sky was crystal blue that day. The airplane took a hit right behind where Robert was sitting. The airplane began to spin slowly as the pilot gave a signal to evacuate the airplane.

Robert and another crew member exited the airplane.

“My dad was parachuting down towards the French countryside,” Chapman said. Bullets bullets being shot by the Germans were going past him. “He managed to get down without being shot.”

Robert landed in a farmer’s field in a little town in France, Gui Pavas.

Chapman said some French farmers picked up his father and took him back to the farmhouse and hid him there for a better part of a week while the Germans were looking for him.

The other gentleman who exited the plane broke his leg upon landing. The Germans picked him up and took him to hospital to reset the leg before abandoning him at the hospital.

Robert was turned over to the French underground and was kept for a period of a week. Chapman said once you were taken by the French underground you were released from the service after returning to the states.

His father spent two more weeks in the region, however, because he did not want to miss any of the war.

In November 1944, Robert was released of his duty. In 1974, he died of a massive coronary.

“When I heard some of the stories, I was too young to really comprehend exactly what he was saying,” Chapman said. “I never really got a chance to probe in great detail.”

Fortunately, Chapman had the opportunity to connect with the man who was the bombardier on the airplane. He said he written a book about the events.

“Being able to talk to one of the guys in the flight crew was particularly gratifying,” Chapman said.

He said he heard that his father was the happy-go-lucky jokester of the crew, which is how he lived most of his life.

While Chapman is in France, he will have the opportunity to visit with the farmer’s family, Abily, who took in his father.

Although this will be the first time meeting the family, he said his son visited the family in France three years ago.

“They had 200 people turn out to welcome him,” he said.

A re-creation was done while his son was in France of his grandfather in the back of a jeep when he got picked up. Chapman said they took an Army surplus jeep and painted it with the same numbers as the one his father was in all those years ago.

He said his son also received a key to the town. The son is named Robert, after his grandfather.

When Chapman’s father was shot down, there was a woman on the farm, who was 17 years old at the time, who was also present when his son visited three years ago.

“The Abily family said he really loved wine and eggs,” Chapman said.

New chapters take off for WWA

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. was founded in battle of matlacha2012 by Dave and his wife Judy Souders in an effort to help all American military veterans cope with their stress management and PTSD therapy.

Dave served in the Marines from 1985-1992, before going into the reserves from 1992-1995. He then served in the Air National Guard in 2006 and medically retired on May 31, 2012. In 2008, he was injured while in the service.

Judy, his wife and caregiver, experienced first hand what our wounded warriors have and still are going through.

The nonprofit organization is a nationally chartered public charity.

Its mission is to “help rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service.” The organization also “actively supports the wounded warrior’s caregivers and their immediate family.”

The nonprofit organization recently added two new chapters to the cause, which in turn is helping more of our wounded warriors.

First Chapter: The “Matlacha Redfish Regiment”

 Chapter 001, The “Matlacha Redfish Regiment,” was nationally chartered and formed on Feb. 10, 2014. David is the commandant and James Conant is the executive officer of the chapter.

“Being a wounded warrior myself, it’s great to be with other veterans,” Jim said about the camaraderie they all share. “It’s a great thing to help out each other and be around people that you have a lot in common with.”

Matlacha Redfish Regiment Wounded Warrior Angler Chapter Executive Officer Jim Conant.

Matlacha Redfish Regiment Wounded Warrior Angler Chapter Executive Officer Jim Conant.

Jim was in the U.S. Army for 22 years before retiring in June 2010. He said all the men in his family are veterans, which is one of the reasons he joined the service.His involvement in Wounded Warrior Anglers began 13 months ago after meeting Dave at a booth he had set up at the Taste of Pine Island.

The chapter got going this month when it held its first bimonthly meeting on March 10. The meetings are held at the Olde Fish House Marina on Matlacha because of the relaxed atmosphere.

Jim said they have about 65 members so far in the Matlacha chapter.

Disabled veterans can join the chapter for free by logging onto http://www.woundedwarrioranglers.com. He said they are waving the fee for veterans for a year to get more people involved.

In addition to the bi-monthly meeting, Jim said the chapter is also holding an internal fishing tournament.

“It’s a great team building event,” he said, adding that the tournament draws the members closer.

The first internal fishing tournament will be held on Saturday, April 5 for the members. Jim said they currently have eight boats participating. After the kind of fish was drawn for the tournament, a few more captains came onboard because the fish can be found in deeper waters.

He said every fishing tournament members will be paired up with different teams, so everyone has a chance to meet new people.

The first place winner of the tournament will fly the Wounded Warrior Angler flag on their boat every time they are out on the water.

With Jim recently earning his captain’s license, as well as being retired, he said he takes one or two veterans out at a time two to four times a week.

Second Chapter: “Port Charlotte/North Port Area”

The second chapter is currently underway for the Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. organization due to it working towards nationally chartering Chapter 002.

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America President David Souders and Keith Neal.

Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, Inc. Founder David Souders and Port Charlotte/North Port area chapter commandant Keith Neal.

“It’s a great cause to be involved with,” Keith Neal said, who is the commandant of the second chapter. “I couldn’t think of anything better to do.”

The second chapter, “Port Charlotte/North Port Area,” will cover Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte, Englewood, Bradenton, North Port, Sarasota and Venice. Once the chapter receives more members and sponsorships it will go full blast.

There are currently 16 Wounded Warrior Angler members living in the Charlotte County area. Keith said veterans who live in the area can join the Wounded Warrior Angler chapter by visiting, http://www.woundedwarrioranglers.org.

Once an individual logs onto the website and enters what city they live in, he said, they will be assigned to the chapter out of his area.“We want to keep continuing and expanding it further,” Keith said of Wounded Warrior Anglers.

“We don’t want to change anything. We are hoping to expand it even more to help more individuals and gain more awareness.”

His hope with this chapter is to grow more awareness about the organization, hold more functions and help wounded warrior’s cope with their issues. One of those coping mechanisms, of course is taking wounded warriors out on the water.

Right now, Keith, as well as some other captains are volunteering their time and boats to take the warriors out fishing.

Keith said he first started volunteering with Wounded Warrior Anglers a year and a half ago after he heard about the organization through a friend.

Keith will retired from the United Sates Navy at the end of August after 22 1/2 years of service. He said he knew he was going to be a Navy man in high school because both his mother and grandfather were in the Navy.

“It’s been an amazing career and I have enjoyed every minute of it,” he said.

Although Keith is not on the water as much as he wants to be, he tries to go fishing a couple times a month in the winter and more in the summer.