Sixteen years after he sacrificed himself defending his team on a 10,000-foot peak known as Takur Ghar in Afghanistan, Air Force Technical Sgt. John Chapman has received the Medal of Honor.
In a ceremony at The White House on Wednesday, President Donald Trump presented the posthumous award to Chapman's wife, Valerie Nessel. A military aide read the citation during the ceremony, which detailed the airman's incredible heroism and the sacrifice of “his life for the lives of his teammates.”
Chapman's actions occurred on March 4, 2002 during Operation Anaconda, the largest battle involving conventional U.S. troops in the Afghanistan War. While attached to SEAL Team 6 as a combat controller — the team's expert on air strikes and communications — Chapman was one of the first off the helicopter as the team tried to rescue a fallen SEAL.
Trudging through thigh-deep snow, Chapman and the others fought back against al Qaeda fighters that had dug in on the mountaintop. And when the team fell back under withering enemy fire, Chapman remained behind to fight on for an hour and attempted to cover the approach of a quick reaction force, before he was shot and killed.
“Despite severe, mortal wounds, he continued to fight relentlessly,” the citation says. “Sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice.”
Here is the full citation:
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.