PETTY OFFICER FIRST CLASS DAVID M. TAPPER was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan on August 20, 2003.
|Camden Courier-Post - August 22, 2003|
S.J. Native Killed In Action
Navy SEAL David Tapper dies after attack in Afghanistan
By CAROL COMEGNO
A Navy SEAL originally from Waterford was killed in action in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Defense Department confirmed.
David M. Tapper, 32, a Navy photographer's mate first class petty officer, was wounded Wednesday after his convoy encountered enemy forces near Orgun, in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border.
The Navy commando died later that day at a hospital at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, Navy spokesman Lt. John Perkins said.
He leaves behind his wife, two sons and two daughters.
No one was home Thursday night at the red rancher in the Atco section of Waterford where his mother lives.
Tapper enlisted in November 1989 after graduating from Edgewood Regional High School in Atco. He graduated from SEAL training in San Diego in 1991.
A man answering the phone at Tapper's Virginia Beach, Va., residence Thursday evening declined to comment. "He joined the Navy with the intention of becoming a Navy SEAL," said his sister, Ruth Fleming.
Tapper, a 13-year Navy SEAL veteran, was stationed at the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, in Virginia Beach. He was in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Navy said.
Tapper received several awards and decorations, including the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and Meritorious Unit Commendation.
Petty Officer First Class, United States Navy
Aug 21, 2003
DoD Identifies Navy Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today that Petty Officer First Class David M. Tapper, 32, of Camden County, New Jersey, died of wounds received in action August 20, 2003 in Afghanistan.
Often called upon to conduct the most harrowing missions, Tapper took part in the April rescue of wounded POW Jessica Lynch, then helped recover the bodies of nine American soldiers buried near the Iraqi hospital where she was held, according to friends and the Tapper family.
After serving in Iraq for two months, Tapper, a father of four, returned to Camden County for a visit during a six-week leave in early summer. Tapper, who had spent most of his 13-year naval career as a SEAL, was reluctant to return to the war zone.
"He said it was too soon," said a sister, who spoke for the family. "He wanted to stay with his children and spend more time with his family in Atco."
But, duty called again last month, this time sending him to Afghanistan, where an increasingly overlooked and vastly dangerous mission to rout the Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists grinds on.
Tapper, 32, died there Wednesday while conducting combat operations in a lawless province near the Pakistani border - an area where the military believes the terrorists are operating.
Friends here said Tapper was shot in the back during an ambush. He died later at a hospital at Bagram Air Base, the Navy said.
"David fought a good fight and accomplished his mission in life," said the sister, who asked not to be identified by name. "We know that he is in Heaven and it was the Lord's will to take him there."
A Navy spokesman declined to discuss Tapper's unit or its mission in Afghanistan.
Tapper's wife and four children live in Virginia Beach, Va., where his unit was stationed, but he has a large family in the Atco area, where he grew up and graduated from Edgewood High School in 1989.
The youngest of six children - and the only boy - Tapper was extremely close with his mother, Judi, an agent for Weichert Realtors, friends said. One sister died when she was young, they said. Judi Tapper was proud of her son's service, yet devastated by the loss of the family protector.
"We grew up with him protecting his mother and sisters," one sister said. "Then he grew up to protect his country."
Tapper's family, both here and in Virginia, have shunned most requests for interviews. Some friends said the Navy has cautioned them against speaking out because of the sensitive nature of Tapper's missions.
Services will be held for him in Atco and at Arlington National Cemetery, said the Rev. Joe Beggs, pastor of Atco United Presbyterian Church. Beggs said details had not been finalized. Tapper grew up attending the Atco church, where Beggs has been pastor for 17 years. Tapper's sister said he wrote the congregants, thanking them for their prayers while he was fighting in Iraq.
"He said he and everyone in his team could feel the prayers protecting them," Beggs said. "He's been an amazing hero for us."
Beggs said Tapper closely guarded the secrets of his missions.
"He said, 'Joe, don't ask me what I'm doing. Even if I was allowed tell you, you wouldn't want to know.' "
He said Tapper was a "lively kid" who came from a religious family. Tapper's sister said, "God's hand kept him safe when he was in Iraq."
Beggs said Tapper also had fought in Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Waterford Township, which includes Atco, was already awash in patriotism, with military families displaying banners furnished by the local American Legion post in their windows. The flag at the municipal building was lowered to half staff yesterday at the municipal building.
At the Atco Diner, a hub of community activity, Tapper's death dominated the conversations of a saddened lunch crowd yesterday. Owner Laurie Toussaint, who is also Waterford's mayor, talked about the death while holding a phone in one hand and serving a plate of scrapple and eggs with the other.
"It's hard to watch a family you've known for 30 years so devastated," she said.
Tapper was the fourth Navy SEAL from the Virginia Beach area to die in Afghanistan. Many of the 1,200 SEALs based in Virginia are stationed at the Little Creek Amphibious Base.
Lt. John Perkins, a SEALs spokesman, and a military expert both said the missions in Afghanistan can be extremely dangerous.
As opposed to some special forces that also collect intelligence, SEALs are designated almost primarily for combat, said Anthony Cordesman, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Tapper was listed as a photographer's mate first class petty officer, but Cordesman said "titles are meaningless" in the SEAL teams.
Tapper enlisted in the Navy after high school, in November 1989, with the intention of making the highly competitive SEAL teams, friends said. He graduated from SEAL training in San Diego in 1991.
He met his wife, Tracy, in California, said Tapper's sister. The couple had two boys and two girls, ages 3, 5, 8 and 11.
While overseas on missions, his family had no way to contact him, either through mail or by phone. But Tapper had called his wife and children on Sunday and Monday. One of his sisters was visiting then and spoke to him - for the last time.
Tapper turned 32 on August 16, 2003, four days before the death that has left his family reeling.
got to spend quality time with him when he was home. He came down one
weekend and then he surprised us and came down a second weekend,"
the sister said. "He was a loving and dedicated father. He lived
for his children and his wife."
David M. Tapper, 32, an Atco native and Navy SEAL killed last week during a combat mission in Afghanistan, will be buried tomorrow with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
A memorial service is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. September 5 in the auditorium of Winslow Township High School, which was Edgewood High School when Mr. Tapper graduated in 1989. His family will receive visitors there starting at 6:30 p.m.
The Navy has planned a private memorial service for Mr. Tapper today at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he was stationed.
The husband and father of four died Aug. 20 after he was shot near Orgun in Paktika province. A member of an elite SEAL team, he was conducting combat operations in the lawless province, Navy officials said. He died at a hospital at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
His family said he had been shot in the back during an ambush.
Mr. Tapper, a high school wrestler, joined the Navy shortly after graduation. In 1991, he completed SEAL training in San Diego and spent 12 of his 13 years in the military with the SEALs, a special forces arm of the Navy.
He was listed as a photographer's mate first class petty officer. He had received numerous awards and commendations, including the Joint Service Commendation Medal, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
Mr. Tapper served in Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, and spent two months this year fighting in Iraq, his family and friends said. Mr. Tapper took part in the rescue of wounded American POW Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital, then helped recover the bodies of nine U.S. soldiers buried there, they said.
He was called back to the fighting in Afghanistan this summer, his family said.
"David fought a good fight and accomplished his mission in life," one of his sisters said last week. "We know that he is in heaven, and it was the Lord's will to take him there."
Mr. Tapper is survived by his wife, Tracey; their children, Raimen, Vanessa, Talia and Jared; his mother, Judith, and her husband, George Youngkin; his father, Ken, and his wife, Dot; grandparents Pete and Edith Claypoole; and sisters Judi Dowell, Ruth Berwick, Brenda Banes and Diana Hicks.
to a fund for Mr. Tapper's wife and children can be made to Atco
United Presbyterian Church, 2259 Atco Ave., Atco, N.J. 08004. Checks
should be made payable to the church, but marked for the Tapper
Memorial Fund in the memo portion.
soldier killed in Afghanistan
A U.S. special operations soldier has been killed in action in eastern Afghanistan, the US military said yesterday, while in a neighbouring province coalition troops arrested four people and seized weapons stored in caves by insurgents.
The soldier died from wounds after operations near Orgun in Paktika province on Wednesday, a statement on the US military Central Command website said.
The Department of Defense identified him as Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David M. Tapper, 32, of Camden County, New Jersey.
On Thursday, U.S. military in Afghanistan announced that another coalition soldier had been slightly injured by a bomb while on patrol in the same region on the same day. It was not immediately clear whether the two incidents were linked.
11,500 troops of the US-led coalition are in Afghanistan hunting down
remnants of the ousted Taliban regime and their allies.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia. The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed Thursday that a Virginia-based Navy SEAL was killed in combat in Afghanistan.
David M. Tapper, 32, a Navy photographer's mate first class petty officer, was wounded on Wednesday after his convoy encountered enemy forces near Orgun, in Paktika Province. He died later that day at a hospital at Bagram Air Base, Navy spokesman Lieutenant John Perkins said.
Tapper, a 13-year Navy SEAL veteran based in Virginia Beach, was in Afghanistan conducting operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Navy said.
Originally from Camden County, New Jersey, Tapper enlisted in November 1989 and graduated from SEAL training in San Diego in 1991.
A man answering the phone at Tapper's Virginia Beach residence Thursday evening declined to comment.
Camden Courier-Post - August 23, 2003
Waterford Mourns Slain Navy SEAL
Everyone in this town will grieve' for David Tapper
By JASON NARK
Shaded beneath a massive oak tree at American Legion Post 311, three marble monuments in a bed of moss honor three local men killed while serving their country.
David M. Tapper's name will be etched into marble and placed there as well.
Tapper, a 32-year-old photographer's mate first class petty officer in the Navy SEALs, was killed on Wednesday after his convoy encountered enemy forces near Orgun in Afghanistan's Paktika Province, near the Pakistan border.
In the quiet, rural Atco section of Waterford where Tapper grew up, family members gathered to console his mother, Judith, a local real estate agent, at her home. Some praised Tapper's heroism.
A few miles away, near the red, log-cabin rancher where Tapper grew up, neighbors tried to recall the athletic boy who entered the Navy immediately after graduating from Edgewood High School in 1989.
"I remember he used to wait for the bus with my daughter," said 54-year-old Fran Schaaf, whose home is three down from the red rancher, which Tapper's mother still owns.
Schaaf said Tapper, a 13-year Navy SEAL veteran, was in Atco earlier this summer after being involved in the rescue of POW Pvt. Jessica Lynch.
"I said to my husband, you hear of deaths all the time, but when it's one of your neighbors, it really hits home," Schaaf said.
On Atco Avenue, the town's main street, small-business owners offered emotional support for the family.
"He comes from a very nice family," said Joe DiDio as he fixed a chair in his small barbershop. "Everyone in this town will grieve."
DiDio said the death of Tapper, a married father of two boys and two girls, brings the war into perspective.
"You really wonder why we're in this thing sometimes," DiDio said.
Tending bar at the American Legion less than a block away, 74-year-old Frank Snuffin said Legion members gave Judith Tapper a blue-star banner to show she had a family member serving.
Legion members said Tapper can be posthumously inducted.
At the Atco Diner on the White Horse Pike, owner and township Mayor Lorie Toussaint offered her support to Tapper's family. She said the township will honor the former high school wrestler in some way.
Tapper was stationed in Virginia Beach, Va.
Camden Courier-Post - September 6, 2003
More than 800 attend service for Navy SEAL
David M. Tapper died after an attack on his convoy in Afghanistan
By JIM WALSH
More than 800 people gathered Friday night to mourn the loss of a local boy who died as a military man in a distant land.
Family members, friends and strangers filled Winslow High School's auditorium for a memorial service for Navy SEAL David M. Tapper, an Atco native killed in Afghanistan last month.
"I had to be there for him," said Mary Benjamin of Blue Anchor. "He gave the ultimate sacrifice."
Tapper, a 13-year Navy veteran, died Aug. 20 after an attack on his convoy in eastern Afghanistan. He was 32 and the father of four young children.
Tapper also was a 1989 graduate of the high school, then known as Edgewood Senior High.
On Friday night, a small case in a school lobby held decorations from his military career, which included two Bronze Stars with Combat Distinguishing Devices and the Purple Heart.
A long line of mourners filed past a large American flag and two posters with photographs from Tapper's life.
Printed on one poster were the words: "Husband, Father, Friend, Hero."
"He was so sweet," recalled Michelle Springer of Berlin, who attended Edgewood at the same time as Tapper. "He was the boy with the sparkle in his eye."
Said Barbara Bungy of West Deptford, another former schoolmate: "He died for what we believe in." She described dissolving into tears at news of Tapper's death.
Tapper's family asked that the media not attend the service, said Leroy Wooster, an Atco funeral director who helped organize the event.
The ceremony included remembrances by people who knew and loved Tapper, as well as prayers, hymns and patriotic tunes.
Wooster said one emotional moment came during remarks by Tapper's former pastor, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Beggs of Atco United Presbyterian Church.
Beggs noted that members of Tapper's SEAL team had traveled from Virginia Beach, Va., for the service.
"He asked the SEALS to stand," said Wooster. "Then the audience gave them a standing ovation."
Beggs and other speakers stood on a darkened stage near a floral display and a screen that showed a large picture of Tapper.
The photograph, taken many years ago, showed Tapper as the young man who enlisted in the Navy after graduation, becoming a photographer's mate first class and starting a journey that took him around the world."
"That picture is how the people here will remember him," Wooster said.
Some people at the service said Tapper's death had helped heighten their awareness of the military's role abroad.
"That's the sad part," Springer said. "Everybody thinks about Iraq. You sometimes forget there are people serving in Afghanistan."
Camden Courier-Post - November 17, 2003
Benefit Aids Kin of Slain S.J. Navy SEAL
David M. Tapper died after an attack on his convoy in Afghanistan
By JASON LAUGHLIN
Patriotism mixed with sorrow Sunday at a fund-raiser for the widow and children of a South Jersey native killed this summer in Afghanistan.
Ticket sales alone raised about $100,000 for the family of Navy SEAL David M. Tapper, a 32-year-old Atco native who died Aug. 20 when his convoy was attacked.
The more than 400 guests included scores of Tapper's friends and relatives who showed their support for his wife, Tracy, and his four children: Raimen, 12; Vanessa, 9; Talia, 5; and Jared, 4.
An almost equal number of guests had never met Tapper, but they still felt compelled to show their support and gratitude for a man who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
"Anyone who comes from the military, particularly someone who dies, I'm front and center," said Walt McBride, who donated his business, the Renaissance Room, and catered the event for free.
Tapper's sister, Diana Hicks, tearfully read remarks about her brother in which she described him as "the uplifting, spirit-boosting funny guy."
"I know he would feel very honored by all that has happened since Aug. 20," she said
Her best friend, Donna Iuliucci, organized the event. Iuliucci, who grew up with the Tappers, became overcome with emotion as she spoke of Tapper.
"When the soldier is your childhood friend and your best friend's brother, it really hits close to home," she said.
Twenty-five to 30 local businesses donated or contributed to the event, helping Iuliucci arrange a Chinese auction and ad book that included pictures of Tapper and family comments.
One letter in the ad book was penned by Tapper's mother, Judi.
It read: "Our family will always be proud of David's life and accomplishments; he was our hero, as a family man, and as a Navy SEAL."
Camden Courier-Post - April 25, 2004
Ceremony Honors Life Lost In War
By JASON LAUGHLIN
A ceremony Saturday marked the groundbreaking for a memorial honoring an Atco man killed while serving in Afghanistan, David Tapper.
"The loss of David has been devastating to our family and friends," said David's mother, Judi, in comments at the 3 p.m. ceremony. "Life will never be the same without him. He is our hero."
The memorial, a stone tablet bearing a picture of Tapper, will be erected at the American Legion Post 311 on Atco Avenue at 7 p.m. on the one-year anniversary of Tapper's death, Aug. 20. It will be placed beside marble monuments on the property honoring three other local men killed while serving their country.
The ceremony, attended by more than 100 township officials, friends of Tapper and others honoring Tapper's sacrifice, was the result of a community effort to ensure Tapper is remembered, his mother said.
Among the speakers were Mayor Lorie Toussaint and Deputy Mayor Anthony Clark.
Contributors to the memorial included friends and numerous companies from around the area, from landscapers to masons, who have offered their money and skills to the effort.
Tapper, a 32-year-old Navy SEAL, was killed after his convoy encountered enemy forces near Orgun in Afghanistan's Paktika Province, near the Pakistan border.
The Navy commando died at a hospital at Bagram Air Base near Kabul. He left behind his wife, Tracy, and his four children: Raimen, 12; Vanessa, 9; Talia, 5; and Jared, 4.
Tapper enlisted in the Navy immediately after graduating from Edgewood High School in 1989.
Tapper was decorated numerous times during his military career. He had received, among other citations, two Bronze Stars with Combat Distinguishing Devices and the Purple Heart.
Tapper's mother thanked members of the community for their support in her speech, and spoke of the pride she had in her son.
"He died fighting for the very freedom that a patriot, and we as Americans, most cherish," she said.
After the ceremony, Tapper's mother and his father, Ken, said they are still haunted by the death of their son. His mother said she still watches the news regularly, and is stricken when she hears about the deaths of other soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. The most recent and one of the most high profile casualties to come out of Afghanistan was the death of Pat Tillman, a former Arizona Cardinals football player who became an Army Ranger after Sept. 11. He, like Tapper, was a member of the special forces.
"I still watch the news because I need to be praying for the families," Tapper's mother said after the ceremony.
Turnout at Saturday's event was evidence that Tapper's death has continued to resonate in his home community.
"It gives people an opportunity to express their patriotism," Ken Tapper said.
HOW TO HELP
Anyone interested in donating for David Tapper's memorial can send checks to the Waterford Township Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 635, Atco, 08004
Camden Courier-Post - August 19, 2004
Veteran to Be Honored in Waterford
By LAVINIA DeCASTRO
One year after Atco native David M. Tapper was killed while serving in Afghanistan, his family and friends will gather Friday for the unveiling of a monument in his honor.
The memorial, a 3-foot-by-5-foot stone tablet bearing a picture of the Navy SEAL, will be unveiled at the American Legion Post 311 in Atco. It will sit beside marble monuments honoring three other local men killed while serving their country.
"It's beautiful," said 44-year-old Ruth Berwick, Tapper's sister. "This all came around because of his death, but the ceremony - it's honoring all vets."
Berwick said a group of family, friends and community members helped raise roughly $30,000. The money was used to pay for the memorial, beautify the grounds at the American Legion post, refurbish the World War I and II memorials and add names to the Vietnam and Korean war monuments.
"A lot of local businesses got involved," Berwick said. "A lot of contractors donated their time and materials."
During the ceremony, Tapper's children - Raimen, 12; Vanessa, 9; Talia, 5; and Jared, 4 - will raise the American flag.
Tapper, 32, was decorated numerous times during his military career. He had received, among other citations, two Bronze Stars with Combat Distinguishing Devices and the Purple Heart. He was killed Aug. 20, 2003, after his convoy encountered enemy forces near Orgun in Afghanistan's Paktika Province, near the Pakistan border.
The Navy commando died at a hospital at Bagram Air Base near Kabul. He left behind his wife, Tracy, and his four children.
Tapper enlisted in the Navy immediately after graduating from Edgewood High School in 1989. He knew he would become a Navy SEAL.
"He went in with that intention," Berwick said, adding that the military suited Tapper's personality.
"We always called him our little protector," Berwick said. "Even though he was the youngest, he was always protective of us."
IF YOU GO
The unveiling of a monument honoring David M. Tapper will take place at 7 p.m. today at the Atco American Legion Post 311, 2225 Atco Ave. For information, call Ruth L. Berwick at (856) 767-5949.
Camden Courier-Post - August 21, 2004
Tapper Monument Unveiled
The Navy SEAL was killed after his convoy encountered enemy forces near Orgun in Afghanistan's Paktika Province, near the Pakistan border. He died at a hospital at Bagram Air Base near Kabul.
Tapper, 32, joined the Navy immediately after graduating from Edgewood High School in 1989. He earned numerous decorations, including two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart. He is survived by his wife, Tracy, and his four children: Raimen, 12; Vanessa, 9; Talia, 5, and Jared, 4.
The memorial is at the American Legion Post 311 in Atco and sits beside marble monuments honoring three other local men killed while serving their country.
Friends, family and community members helped raise about $30,000 to pay for the memorial, beautify the grounds at the American Legion post, refurbish the World War I and II memorials and add names to the Vietnam and Korean war monuments.
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