Master Sergeant, John Chapman

Born in 1965 in Springfield, Massachusetts Chapman joined the United States Air Force in 1985 where he was trained as an information systems operator.

Then in 1990 he joined the elite Combat Control Team (CCT). The Air Force combat controller programme is two years long where only one in ten graduate, one of instructors remembers him as “sharp”.

He then went on to serve with the 1721st Combat Control Squadron, and it was here he met and then married Valerie. They had two daughters, Brianna, and Madison together.

In Afghanistan on March 4th 2002 Chapman was part of a special operations team which consisted of Army Rangers and Navy SEALs. They were to establish a reconnaissance outpost on the Mountain Takur Ghar, and report back enemy activity in the valleys.

The operation named ‘Anaconda’ was troubled from the start as their Chinook helicopter was attacked by RPG’s and damaged. As it tried to manoeuvre to evade the attacks, Navy SEAL Petty Officer Neil Roberts was thrown out and wounded. He survived for 30 minutes, engaging the enemy before being killed at close range. The Chinook then made a controlled crash a few miles away.

Without hesitation

Along with a team that included Britt Kelly Slabinski, (another Navy SEAL), Chapman without hesitation decided to return to the mountain to conduct a rescue mission for Roberts.

A second Chinook took them back to the mountain. The rescue team were under fire from three directions. So, Chapman engaged them at close range to enable them to break cover, but he sustained multiple wounds and died on the battle field.

His Navy sea-air-land team leader credits Sergeant Chapman unequivocally with saving the lives of the entire rescue team, and for this he was initially given the Air Force Cross but this was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2018.

His citation said

“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”

John Chapman was posthumously promoted to Master Sergeant and is buried in Windber.

May he RIP.

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