Family, friends gather for Medal of Honor ceremony Wednesday

Elizabeth Howe
August 21, 2018 - 3:27 pm

Photo courtesy of Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs


President Donald Trump will posthumously award the Medal of  Honor to Air Force Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman in a White House ceremony Wednesday, August 22, 2018. Chapman will be the first airman to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.

Photo courtesy of DVIDS

Chapman was part of a joint special operations reconnaissance team on an MH-47 "Chinook" that flew into an enemy ambush in the early hours of the morning on March 4, 2002. The helicopter took heavy fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenade weaponry resulting in Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts falling from the helicopter. After a controlled crash landing 8 km away, the team chose to turn back for Petty Officer Roberts. It was during this rescue attempt that Chapman acted with "conspicuous gallantry," sustaining significant injuries and temporarily losing consciousness before defending the incoming Quick Reaction Force team.  The battle happened on Takur Ghar in Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda.  

Chapman's Medal of Honor ceremony comes months after that of retired Navy Master Chief Britt Slabinski. Slabinski received the award for actions during the same engagement on March 4, 2002. The team believed Chapman to be dead, vacated the area and left Chapman behind.  Enhanced drone footage eventually showed that Chapman was alive and continued to fight after his team left.  That video was released just last week.


“Tech. Sgt. John Chapman earned America’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor, for the actions he performed to save fellow Americans on a mountain in Afghanistan more than 16 years ago,” said Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. “He will forever be an example of what it means to be one of America’s best and bravest Airmen. His family will forever be in our hearts.”

Chapman graduated from Windsor Locks High School in Windsor Locks, Connecticut in 1983 before enlisting in the Air Force two years later, Sept. 27, 1985. He is survived by his wife, Valerie Nessel; his two daughters, Madison and Brianna; his mother, Terry Chapman; his step-mother, Tess Chapman; his sisters, Lori Longfritz and Tammy Klein and his brother, Kevin. Members of the family were supported by military members as they flew from Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, Florida Monday for the ceremony.

Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson

President Trump will award the medal to Chapman's wife, with other family members and friends in attendance.  You can watch the White House ceremony live Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time here.