CSAF, family unveil recent MOH recipient's name on Special Tactics Memorial

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joseph Pick
  • 24th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Sunlight shed for the first time on a well-known, but newly-engraved name under the recently installed Medal of Honor recipient display at the Special Tactics Memorial in the airpark Oct. 27.

Hundreds of Air Commandos, family members and distinguished visitors gathered at the airpark to watch as U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Chapman’s family, along with Air Force and 24th Special Operations Wing leadership, unveil the newest addition to the MOH-recipient display, “Tech. Sgt. John Chapman” permanently inscribed within. Chapman was a Special Tactics combat controller who paid the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of his teammates, according to his MOH citation. 

“Memorials are about reflecting on the best qualities embodied by the actions of our heroes,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Worth of a legacy to inspire us all to do more, to inspire us all to be better. They can be letters etched into a wall or a classic car built by the hands of a teammate and for those of us all privileged to serve, it is our sacred duty to reflect on these ideas and the actions of those who have gone before us and secured our freedom as we recommit ourselves to the important work ahead.”

On March 4, 2002, Chapman was killed during Operation ANACONDA, when he knowingly sacrificed his life on multiple occasions, stepping out from behind cover, to fire at the enemy to defend his teammates. When his teammates were forced off the mountain due to overwhelming fire, Chapman aggressively fought off the enemy for over an hour. In his last moments, he chose to fend off a rocket-propelled grenade attack on an incoming MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying a quick reaction force of U.S. Army Rangers and Air Force Special Tactics Airmen. Ultimately, Chapman’s actions saved the lives of his teammates and the lives of those on the incoming helicopter.

Chapman was initially awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions, but after a thorough review, President Donald Trump deemed his award earned an upgrade to the Medal of Honor. Trump presented the Medal to Chapman’s widow, Valerie Nessel, during a White House ceremony, Aug. 22. The following day, Chapman was posthumously promoted to the rank of master sergeant.

“John would want each and every one of you, and his brothers that have gone before him, all share in Congressional Medal of Honor,” said Nessel. “This memorial will now bear, Technical Sgt. John Chapman, Medal of Honor recipient, the first Airman since Vietnam, the first Special Tactics operator ever. John would attest this is not an individual award, but that the other men on that mountain all paid the ultimate sacrifice."

The Hurlburt Field Airpark is the home to much of Air Force Special Operations Command history, and this Medal of Honor display highlights a first for the Special Tactics community. 

“Nestled between two weapon systems that showcase other Medal of Honor recipients, we add a modern-day, human weapon system who was a Spartan Warrior, still with the compassion and grace to be an incredible son, brother, husband, father, friend and teammate,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Claude Tudor, Jr., commander of the 24th SOW. “This memorial serves every generation of Special Tactics.”

Following the ceremony, hundreds in attendance performed memorial pushups, a Special Tactics tradition that honors fallen comrades led by Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Guilmain, command chief of the 24th SOW.