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Fourth time's the charm for Chapman family

  • Published
  • By Annette Crawford
  • Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs
Exactly 97 years after his great-grandfather enlisted to serve in World War I, Riley Joseph Chapman is raising his right hand and becoming a member of the armed forces. He is the fourth generation in his family to enlist in the military on the same date - Sept. 17.

The tradition began when Pvt. Riley Virgil Chapman enlisted in the U.S. Army on Sept. 17, 1917, and joined the American Expeditionary Forces. He served for two years.

His son, retired Tech. Sgt. Glenn R. Chapman, enlisted in the Air Force on Sept. 17, 1956. Picking the date was completely arbitrary; Glenn didn't realize he had joined the military the same date as his father until after he retired in 1977.

But when it came time for Glenn's son, Joseph Michael Chapman, to join the Air Force in 1986, they intentionally picked Sept. 17. Joseph's recruiter, Master Sgt. John Olkonen, thought it was such a unique event he arranged for a story and photograph in the local newspaper.

And so there was no question about the date Joseph's son wanted to join the Air Force, and that is how Riley Joseph Chapman became Trainee Chapman at 9:30 a.m. MST on Sept. 17, 2014.

It was definitely a family affair for Riley's send-off at the Phoenix Military Entrance Processing Station Sept. 17. On hand for the historic event were Riley's parents, grandparents, his father's recruiter and of course, his recruiter.

The 22-year-old Riley grew up in Tucson, and said there was never any real question of whether or not he was joining the Air Force.

"It was just a matter of timing," he said.

While he'd like to explore a career in the Air Force, Riley said he'll "take it one day at a time. I'll see how it goes; I don't want to get ahead of myself." He'll be getting a job in the electrical aptitude area.

Having four generations join the military the same day isn't the only coincidence in this family. Glenn and his son, Joseph, both worked on U-2s. Joseph and his son both graduated from Flowing Wells High School, and the day they visited Riley's recruiter happened to be Joseph's birthday.

The recruiter, Staff Sgt. Marvin Contreras, wasn't quite sure how to take the Chapmans' story when they came into his recruiting office in Northwest Tucson.

"I was a bit overwhelmed since I was just three weeks into the job," Contreras said. I thought, 'Is this for real? Am I being punked?'"

Contreras is assigned to the 362nd Recruiting Squadron. He spent five years in the services career field at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., before becoming a recruiter. The Sept. 17 date will also hold special significance for him - Riley is the first person he has sent to Basic Military Training.