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Medal of Honor recipient John Chapman memorialized at Pope Army Airfield

  • Published
  • By Danielle Knight
  • Special Warfare Training Wing

Master Sgt. John Chapman was commemorated during a Medal of Honor dedication at Pope Army Airfield on May 30.

A life-size figure of Chapman, a hand-drawn portrait and a replica of his Medal of Honor were unveiled and placed on permanent display at the Benini Heritage Center, a nationally-recognized museum that is part of the 352nd Special Warfare Training Squadron, home of the Combat Control apprentice course. An outdoor memorial ceremony hosted by Col. James Hughes followed the reveal, with Ms. Valerie Nessel, the spouse of Chapman, and other Gold Star spouses: Melanie Sather and Tabitha Brown. Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, was keynote speaker at the memorial.

Hughes extended his thanks to the Gold Star families that came out to the event, stating that their presence means more to the Special Warfare community than they realized. His sentiment was met with a standing ovation in thanks of their enduring support. 

“Pope Air Force Base, now Pope Army Airfield, is a special place in the history of Air Force combat control and special tactics over the past four decades. It is a special place for John Chapman, where you have the combat control schoolhouse he went through,” said Hughes. “Memorializing him here, where we forge the next generation of Special Tactics warriors is particularly fitting.”

Combat control is the most highly-decorated career field in the Air Force for acts of valor since the Vietnam War. The museum was put into place upon the building of the schoolhouse in order to inspire the students and instructors on a daily basis. The figure of Chapman and the replica of his Medal of Honor are placed at the entrance to the schoolhouse as a centerpiece for the museum, to both inspire and remind students of the sacrifices of the fallen.

“This is truly the intersection of heritage and heroes,” said Wilson. “Every Airman here has measured themselves or has been inspired in past centuries by heroes like Levitow, Pitsenbarger, Sijan. They will do the same for John Chapman and they will do it for years to come.”

Prior to the event, Nessel had the opportunity to address the upcoming graduating class of combat controllers.

“It is particularly impactful that John’s legacy is standing guard over the future of our combat control community; a community I consider to be family.” said Nessel. “I hope John’s dedication and sacrifice continue to inspire the next generation of heroes who are answering the call to serve and protect our nation. And that they always remember the stories of those who have gone before them, so their names are never forgotten.”

Maj. Michael Bain, commander of the 352nd Special Warfare Training Squadron, was a close friend and teammate of Chapman’s. He and others made it possible to have the likeness and Medal of Honor replica housed in the Heritage Center.

“[Chapman] understood the capabilities that combat controllers bring to the fight, and it was a badge of honor to know that he was on my team,” said Bain. “He was the first friend to go, and sometimes I don’t feel like we talk enough about him. Having him memorialized at the schoolhouse feels like a way of bringing him home.”

For more information on Msgt. John Chapman and his heroism, visit: