U grads honored by Army during Fiesta Bowl

Army First Lt. Cori Lynn Chapman and Marine Capt. Sam Porter have witnessed firsthand the tragedies of war.

The U alumna and U business school graduate student, respectively, both lost a close friend during their service in Iraq.

Porter said he was standing right beside the late James Cawley, a staff sergeant and Salt Lake police officer, when he was accidentally hit and killed by a Humvee in late March 2003.

“The Humvee just came flying over [to them],” he said.

Porter was also hit by the Humvee and suffered a shattered mandible.

He spent two weeks in a medical unit where “they patched me up, made me look all pretty again,” he said.

Soon after, he was sent home in late April of 2003 with a Purple Heart.

Chapman also felt the pain of losing a fellow soldier and a friend in Iraq. She said that one of her most prominent, and tragic, memories came from serving with the prestigious paratroopers of the 82nd Forward Support Battalion in Al Fallujah as the executive officer for the forward surgical team.

One day in March 2004, a group of wounded and killed soldiers were delivered to her team. She recognized one of the dead as a surgeon and good friend with whom she worked closely.

For her service in Iraq, Chapman received the Army Commendation Medal, the third most prestigious award in the military.

Porter said that even after witnessing the death of a friend, he and his fellow soldiers have to just keep going.

“You just do it,” he said.

It was this kind of attitude, in addition to their outstanding service and awards, that earned them recognition before the recent Fiesta Bowl game as part of Operation Tribute to Freedom, a Department of Army program designed to honor soldiers returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

Each university competing in a bowl game was asked to nominate veterans for recognition. The U was the only school with two honorees, said Ann Floor, a U spokesperson and coordinator the U’s annual Veterans Day celebration.

The 2002 graduate was deployed to Iraq from August 2003 to April 2004, where she served in Al Taqudium Air Field as the ambulance platoon leader, then later served with the surgical team.

Porter, who plans to graduate in the summer of 2006, was in Iraq, “sitting on the border,” three months before the war started and was deployed 29 months later.

“These two people have really had some amazing experiences,” Floor said.

One of Chapman’s amazing experiences was more of a coincidence. While in Iraq, she ran into one her teachers from the U.

“Kind of crazy running into your old ROTC instructor in Iraq,” she said.

Maj. Victor Scott, another one of her ROTC instructors and “a great mentor,” said Chapman stands out in his memory as a top cadet and leader with good grades and strong physical training.

“She was everything we want in a cadet and an officer,” he said, adding that she was the number one cadet out of the 91 in her battalion, and graduated as the Distinguished Military Graduate of December 2002.

Porter said the recognition ceremony before the Fiesta Bowl was fascinating.

“They introduced me by name and told about my service, then marched me out to the center of the field, and the crowd went crazy,” he said. “Seventy-five thousand people standing on their feet, cheering.”

Porter said that after he went to his seat to watch the game, between 50 and 100 people came up to him to congratulate him.

“Everyone who serves should get that kind of recognition,” he said.

Chapman said she also appreciated the ceremony.

“It’s nice to know the American people are backing us,” she said. “That’s why we do our job-for people like you.”

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