Sgt. David Chambers strived to do his best for the Army, even as his life slipped away in a medical evacuation helicopter flying over southern Afghanistan.
On that flight, the 25-year-old Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker soldier wanted to know where his military identification card was. He did not want to be caught looking unprepared after leaving his infantry company in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.
“What else does a professional do but be professional all the time?” marveled his commander, Lt. Col. Chad Sundem, remembering Chambers’ focus in his last moments.
Sundem’s written remarks from Afghanistan set a tone at a Lewis-McChord memorial Wednesday, where hundreds of soldiers packed a chapel to honor Chambers’ sacrifice. He was killed Jan. 16 by a mine in Kandahar’s Panjwai district.
His friends and commanders described him as a dependable noncommissioned officer who took care of the soldiers around him. He also was a “motorcycle fanatic,” who would ride to Mount Rainier whenever he had the time.
Some friends stripped badges from their uniforms and laid them in tribute. Others came from a Fife motorcycle group. They placed a motorcycle helmet and a painting of their Imperial Riders emblem on the Army shrine.
“My home won’t be like home without you, brother,” wrote Sgt. Adam Taylor, who described himself as “inseparable” from Chambers during their time at Lewis-McChord.
He wrote that he’d miss the piles of Dominos Pizza boxes and late-night energy drinks he shared with Chambers.
“You were my best friend, my brother and my family,” Taylor wrote.
Chambers grew up in Hampton, Va., and joined the Army in May 2009. He was serving on his second deployment to Afghanistan; the first was in 2010-11 with a Germany-based Stryker regiment.
He received a Purple Heart after being wounded in combat on that first tour.
This time, Chambers left in November with the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division for a deployment expected to be the last in the war for a Lewis-McChord Stryker unit. Four of the brigade’s soldiers have died on this tour, according to Army reports.
Another close friend, Sgt. Kyle Chattin, took comfort in Chambers’ clear-eyed understanding of his service and the dangers they faced in Kandahar.
“You knew the score. You knew it may come, and you never wavered,” Chattin wrote.
“Dave, for us, you will never grow old. You’ll always be the finest friend, brother and infantryman I have ever known,” he wrote.
Sundem hit a sad refrain in his remarks, praising Chambers in a way that revealed the hurt of losing a soldier with so much potential.
“Of course he was the best team leader in his company,” the commander wrote.
“Of course he was the glue, the pride and the joy to his family.”
“Of course he just recently re-enlisted to serve the Army he loved for four more years; and the Army loved him.”Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 email@example.com