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A family tradition of service

Chaffee military lineage stretches to Civil War

POSTED: November 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Daniel Chaffee on a recent hunting trip on Fort Stewart.

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On Nov. 11 (Veterans Day), my father, brother Christopher and I will be conducting a wreath laying ceremony at the two tombs of our grandfathers in Arlington National Cemetery. I have planned this visit for over a year now as a respectful gift to my father Adna Romanza Chaffee IV.
He and my mother Gabi have been very involved in volunteering, coaching, and mentoring in the Hinesville and Fort Stewart area since shortly before my father’s 33-year retirement from the U.S. Army in 1990. As you may imagine, our family is quite proud of our father, especially after his recent ordainment into the Episcopal Church. But more over is our recognition that he is the last A.R. Chaffee, and with him the wonderful and famous name will rest. I would like to offer a condensed history of that:
 My great-great-grandfather. Lt. Gen. A.R. Chaffee was recognized for valor during the Battle of Gettysburg. He later rode with Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill, established Fort Huachuca, Ariz., as a watering hole for his horses as he chased and later captured Geronimo.
He quelled the Chinese Boxer Rebellion, using an international force which included German soldiers. He was a calvary officer and noted for his accepting the leadership role over newly black soldiers (aka Buffalo Soldiers).
Historians also note that he was a soldier that should have been placed in a glass case with a note attached: “In the event of war, break glass.” This was due to him being retired and brought back into service several times when the Army needed his leadership. He was the Army’s second chief of staff.
His son, Maj. Gen. A.R. Chaffee II recognized the importance of the tank in battle after it’s infancy in World War I. He designed the plan to properly use the tank in warfare which later led to his designation as the “Father of the Armor.”
He later became the mentor for the great George S. Patton, teaching him tactics and leadership at West Point. Patton loved the man so much, that he named several places in Europe after the old man during his route of the Germans in World War II.
My grandfather, A.R. Chaffee III was a West Point graduate and was given a Reserve commission as a lieutenant colonel, until his death from cancer.
My father A.R. Chaffee IV joined the Army at the age of 17 and served three tours in Vietnam. He now lives here in Hinesville, where he retired after 33 years as a sergeant major. He has been a key figure in the planning and eventual construction of the Vietnam Veterans Association Memorial on the grounds of the Fort Stewart Museum. Coincidentally, the memorial sits adjacent to the M-24 Light (Chaffee) Tank, named in recognition of his grandfather. Dad will be going to Fort Benning early next year to attend the opening of the new Armor School Museum, which is supposed to be named in memory of his grandfather.
We can trace our family history back as far as the beginning of the Army in 1775, every first son serving since. My brother’s first son Chadd has just graduated basic training at Fort Benning and is on his way to carrying-on the tradition.
As a result of the wonderful communication with the Arlington National Cemetery staff, and their efforts to make our visit and ceremony a successful and memorable event, we have also been invited to attend the presidential wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that morning.
So, on this Veterans Day, take a moment to remember those who served proudly and especially those who gave their life in our country's defense. Make an effort to communicate with your family and reflect on the history of your forefathers. God bless our nation. God bless the U.S. Army and all the armed services.
 

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