HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
The story of Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. John Chapman has circulated across the nation for nearly two decades and captivated the special operations world.
The heroics John is credited with during a ferocious battle on Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, in 2002 posthumously earned him the nation’s highest military honor.
Today, John’s legacy is cemented in Special Tactics and Hurlburt Field history forever after the 24th Special Operations Wing headquarters was dedicated in his namesake.
Amongst an audience of ST legacy warriors, Air Commandos and friends, U.S. Air Force Col. Claude Tudor Jr., commander of the 24th SOW, alongside John’s family, unveiled the new name on the John A. Chapman Building.
“Today, we will forever bind John’s relentless spirit of honor and courage, his selfless, heroic life and legacy with our headquarters,” Tudor said. “This building is the home of our Special Tactics headquarters and by adding John’s name to the building, it is not only a symbolic gesture, but it binds his legacy with the legacy of Hurlburt Field and AFSOC [Air Force Special Operations Command].”
In February 2002, the Special Tactics combat controller deployed to Afghanistan as part of a joint special operations team. On the team, his role was to conduct precision strikes by integrating airpower onto the battlefield.
On March 4, 2002, John was killed during Operation ANACONDA, when he knowingly sacrificed his life 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 ST Airmen.
“This final act was the ultimate expression of his love. His love for his brothers. His love for his country. His love for me, and his love for all of you,” said Kevin Chapman, John’s brother, during the building dedication. “The act of laying down your life for your friends can only come from one who embodies humility. One who considers others before he considers himself.” John was initially awarded the Air Force Cross for his actions, but after a thorough review, it was upgraded to the Medal of Honor by President Donald Trump, who presented it to his widow, Valerie Nessel, during a White House ceremony on Aug. 22.
“[John] would want to recognize the other men who lost their lives,” Valerie said in a previous interview. “Even though he did something he was awarded the Medal of Honor for, he would not want the other guys to be forgotten – they were part of the team together. I think he would say his Medal of Honor was not just for him, but for all of the guys who were lost.”
John is the first Special Tactics Airman to receive the Medal of Honor and upon receiving the decoration, John was posthumously promoted to the rank of master sergeant.
The upgraded award and rank serve as a lifelong remembrance and renaming the headquarters to the John A. Chapman building is another way of reinforcing an ST legacy of sacrifice.
“Every time we walk into the John A. Chapman headquarters building, we will continue to push our own organizational velocity and drive innovation to meet multi-domain mission requirements across the full spectrum of conflict and crisis,” Tudor said. “[John] Chapman has long inspired the Special Tactics community, but now, his story will inspire and fuel those passing by every day, and remind them who John Chapman was as a person: a phenomenal human, who fought relentlessly and sacrificed all for his teammates.”
Following the building dedication ceremony, three new displays were revealed within the newly renamed John A. Chapman Building including a Medal of Honor tribute. In that display holds a photo of “Chappy”, a detailed summary of The Battle of Takur Ghar, the history of the Medal of Honor, Chapman’s award citation and a Medal of Honor decoration.
“With a humble heart, and as John’s representative for the family and friends, I accept the honor you have bestowed upon us, upon Master Sg. John A. Chapman, by naming this building after him as a lasting legacy in his memory,” Kevin said.
Along with the name “John A. Chapman” now prominently displayed on the street-side of the building, next to the front doors of the entry way is a replica bronze plaque from John’s upgraded Air Force Cross. The plaque displays a brief summary of John’s actions, and at the bottom reads, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? Here am I. Send me!”