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Master Sgt. John Chapman remembered, immortalized at Air Force Memorial

Valerie Nessel, widow of Master Sgt. John Chapman, along with daughters Brianna and Madison Chapman, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright unveil the name of Master Sgt. John Chapman during a ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Valerie Nessel, widow of Master Sgt. John Chapman, along with daughters Brianna and Madison Chapman, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright unveil the name of Master Sgt. John Chapman during a ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Brianna and Madison Chapman, daughters of Master Sgt. John Chapman, carry a wreath during the sergeant’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Brianna and Madison Chapman, daughters of Master Sgt. John Chapman, carry a wreath during the sergeant’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein speaks during Master Sgt. John Chapman’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss)

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein speaks during Master Sgt. John Chapman’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks during Master Sgt. John Chapman’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright speaks during Master Sgt. John Chapman’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss)

Valerie Nessel, widow of Master Sgt. John Chapman, attends Chapman’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

Valerie Nessel, widow of Master Sgt. John Chapman, attends Chapman’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rusty Frank)

A missing man formation flies over Master Sgt. John Chapman’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

A missing man formation flies over Master Sgt. John Chapman’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks at Master. Sgt. John Chapman’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks at Master. Sgt. John Chapman’s name unveiling ceremony at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Aug. 24, 2018. Chapman was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. An elite special operations team was ambushed by the enemy and came under heavy fire from multiple directions. Chapman immediately charged an enemy bunker through thigh-deep snow and killed all enemy occupants. Courageously moving from cover to assault a second machine gun bunker, he was injured by enemy fire. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. With his last actions he saved the lives of his teammates. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Family has been known to show up for each other during times of both joy and sorrow. So when the Air Force’s most recent Medal of Honor recipient was honored at the Air Force Memorial, there was no question that his loved ones, his Air Force Special Operations family and the Airmen who call him “hero” would test the venue’s maximum capacity limit.

Air Force leaders, and the family of fallen combat controller Master Sgt. John Chapman, unveiled his name on the memorial’s Medal of Honor recipient wall during a ceremony Aug. 24, 2018, in Arlington, Virginia.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve gathered together like this – not to mourn a loss, but to celebrate a life – and to celebrate the proud legacy of our special operators,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Today, we’re all air commandos…because this is an Air Force moment – a time to bring together those from our past, our present and our future.” 

This event was the last of three initial ceremonies held in Chapman’s honor.

According to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, defining moments in one’s life can be described as meaningful experiences that stand out in memory, and they provide a connection to those who experience them together.  

“This week has been a series of defining moments for all of us,” Wright said. “This is a historic week as an Air Force, and for the special operations community, as we celebrate the life and heroism of John Chapman. It’s our sacred duty to honor all Airmen for their sacrifices, but none more important today than John.”
Over the last 25 years, the special tactics community has received the majority of the Air Force’s valor awards, receiving 11 Air Force Crosses, 78 Silver Stars, 652 Bronze Stars – 360 with valor, and 132 Purple Hearts.

“You may very well be quiet professionals, but your gallantry and your bravery does not fall upon deaf ears,” Wright said.

Chapman is the first special tactics Airman to receive the Medal of Honor, earned for his actions on Takur Ghar Mountain in Afghanistan March 4, 2002. Upon receiving the medal, Chapman was posthumously promoted to the rank of master sergeant.

“The United States Air Force, Air Force Special Operations community, and in particular, combat controllers, will long remember John’s life of selflessness, relentless drive and above all, his courage,” said “Father of Special Ops” retired Col. John “Coach” Carney. “Young Airmen of the future will learn of John’s saga and benefit greatly from his story. His display of courage will continue to inspire future members of our special operations forces, and he will not be forgotten.” 

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson shared that when Chapman’s widow, Valerie, received news of his death, she grew even closer to the Air Force family, and explained how she continues to take care of Gold Star families today. 

"Valerie has become a first responder of sorts for other families when terrible news comes,” Wilson said as she introduced Valerie to the packed audience. “Whenever she gets the call, she is there."

For Valerie, it’s an honor.  

“I am thankful for these heroes who serve and protect our country, and I’m humbled my husband was one of them,” Valerie said. “I am eternally grateful to the Air Force as a whole, in particular my special tactics community, and – in my humble opinion, the best family ever – my combat control family. As we leave this Air Force memorial today I ask each and every one of you to share John’s story. He’s the definition of a true hero. Continue to tell the stories of all our fallen and wounded warriors. Never stop saying their names.”