Profiles of Valor: Air Force Sgt. John Chapman

He sacrificed himself on a mountainside in Afghanistan in 2002 to save more than 20 of his comrades.

Publius · Aug. 23, 2018

It was a long time coming, but President Donald Trump awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor to Air Force Sgt. John Chapman, who sacrificed himself on a mountainside in Afghanistan in 2002 to save more than 20 of his fellow service members. Chapman’s widow received the award on her late husband’s behalf, and he is now the first Airman to receive the Medal since the Vietnam War.

His citation reads:

Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as an Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller, attached to a Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Team conducting reconnaissance operations in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002. During insertion, the team’s helicopter was ambushed causing a teammate to fall into an entrenched group of enemy combatants below. Sergeant Chapman and the team voluntarily reinserted onto the snow-capped mountain, into the heart of a known enemy stronghold to rescue one of their own. Without regard for his own safety, Sergeant Chapman immediately engaged, moving in the direction of the closest enemy position despite coming under heavy fire from multiple directions. He fearlessly charged an enemy bunker, up a steep incline in thigh-deep snow and into hostile fire, directly engaging the enemy. Upon reaching the bunker, Sergeant Chapman assaulted and cleared the position, killing all enemy occupants. With complete disregard for his own life, Sergeant Chapman deliberately moved from cover only 12 meters from the enemy, and exposed himself once again to attack a second bunker, from which an emplaced machine gun was firing on his team. During this assault from an exposed position directly in the line of intense fire, Sergeant Chapman was struck and injured by enemy fire. Despite severe, mortal wounds, he continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. By his heroic actions and extraordinary valor, sacrificing his life for the lives of his teammates, Technical Sergeant Chapman upheld the highest traditions of military service and reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force. elaborates, “In all, Chapman sustained nine wounds, seven of which were nonfatal, according to his autopsy report. A medical examiner concluded he lived and fought through gunshot wounds to his thigh, heel, calf and torso, which pierced his liver. He had a broken nose and other facial wounds, suggesting he engaged in hand-to-hand combat in close quarters. The final fatal shots likely came from a PKM machine gun, officials said.”

In May, we relayed the story of Navy SEAL Britt Slabinski, who received the Medal for actions in the same battle. Actions during that battle were the subject of some controversy because Chapman was presumed dead and left behind only to revive and continue fighting. We believe each American Patriot involved in this battle acted with honor and bravery given the circumstances, and we’re pleased to see both Slabinski and Chapman awarded with our nation’s highest honor.

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