Camp Cunningham honors Medal of Honor Recipient Master Sgt. John Chapman

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joseph Pick
  • 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

The Special Tactics community and Airmen from the Air Force at large came together to celebrate the life of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John A. Chapman as he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in the White House, inducted into the Pentagon Hall of Heroes, and commemorated at the Air Force memorial, but the celebration of life is still continuing on the opposite side of the world.

On August 28, members of the special operations community and Bagram Airfield gathered at the Memorial Courtyard at Camp Cunningham, Afghanistan, to recognize Chapman, a Special Tactics combat controller with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of Takur Ghar.

"It's incredible to watch Sergeant Chapman's story be told across the Air Force. He has a story of perseverance and determination that is truly inspiring to all Airmen,” said Col. Claude Tudor, Jr., commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, the only Special Tactics wing in the Air Force. “We are very proud of him and his actions that cold, snowy night atop Takur Ghar and we are extremely grateful Airmen from all over the world are continuing to honor John's sacrifice and service to our nation. I just ask they also remember the other Airman and joint teammates we lost that night.”

During the Medal of Honor commemoration ceremony, Special Tactics operators from the 26th Expeditionary Special Tactics Squadron reflected on the courage and valor Chapman displayed more than 10,000 feet high on a mountaintop in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan, where he sacrificed his life to save the lives of his brothers in arms. 

"He died on that mountain top, not in vain but while rescuing a teammate and protecting a helicopter full of men he had never met,” said a 26th ESTS Airman deployed to Bagram. "John Chapman died as he said in high school, ‘putting others ahead of himself,’ and was a living and breathing example of the Special Tactics motto, ‘First There….That Others May Live’.”

Chapman was originally awarded the Air Force Cross on January 10, 2003, and last Wednesday, President Trump presented the Medal of Honor to Chapman’s widow, Valerie Nessel, in a White House ceremony.

"Master Sgt. Chapman's actions on Takur Ghar Mountain were extraordinary,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Buck Elton, Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan and NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan commanding general. "Advances in technology and years of hard work by many Special Tactics Airmen have allowed us to more fully understand the brutal battle. We can now see how Chappy bravely attacked al-Qaeda, continued to fight after being wounded and ultimately died protecting his teammates.”

Chapman, who distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism, is the first Special Tactics operator to be awarded the Medal of Honor and the first Airman since the Vietnam War to receive the nation’s highest award for valor.

"His courage, skill and willingness to give his life so that others may live have long-earned the deep respect of joint special operations forces,” said Elton. "We are grateful and proud President Trump awarded him the Medal of Honor and presented it to his wife and daughters."

With a backdrop of a mural painted to forever immortalize Chapman’s legacy, the ceremony concluded with the 26th ESTS leading the crowd in memorial push-ups as they paid tribute to a fallen warrior, an Airman and an American Hero.


Editor’s Note: Information from a 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs article was used in this story.