John A Chapman
John was born on the 14th of July, 1965 in Springfield, Massachusetts, grew up in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and graduated from Windsor Locks High School in 1983. Two years later, John enlisted in the US Air Force on the 27th of September and was initially trained as an Information Systems Operator. He was assigned to the 1987th Information Systems Squadron at Lowry Air Force Base in Colorado until June of 1989. He then served with the 1721st Combat Control Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina, after training for a Combat Control career field. John was then assigned to the 320th Special Tactics Squadron in Okinawa as a Special Tactics Team Member from November of 1992 until October of 1995. He was back at Pope Air Force Base, this time with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, and deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was his actions during the Battle of Takur Ghar that would initially earn him the Air Force Cross and later be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The 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.
In 2016, the Air Force Secretary, Deborah Lee James, started the process to have John receive the Medal of Honor. The main reason for this push was in part of new technology that allowed for a more in depth review of the battle video, showing that John had regained consciousness and resumed fighting. The Naval Special Warfare Command allegedly tried to block the Medal of Honor upgrade for John as it would be an admission that he was left behind and that the commander of that operation, Britt Slabinski whom I covered on episode 208, was to receive the Medal of Honor. In March of 2018, John's family was notified that his upgrade had been approved and on the 22nd of August, 2018, John's wife Valerie received his Medal of Honor from President Trump in a ceremony at the White House. He was the first recipient from the Air Force to receive the Medal since the Vietnam War and was posthumously promoted to Master Sergeant on the 1st of September 2018. John A Chapman is buried in the Saint Mary Byzantine Catholic Church Cemetery in Windber, Pennsylvania.