wikimedia / public domain
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman (wikimedia / public domain)

WASHINGTON — At a White House ceremony this week, the widow of U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman accepted from President Trump the Medal of Honor awarded to her late husband, a 1983 graduate of Windsor Locks High School who was killed in battle in Afghanistan in 2002.

Chapman received the nation’s highest award for valor for the courageous actions he took in Afghanistan while embedded with SEAL Team Six. When the elite special operations team came under heavy fire from multiple directions, Chapman charged through deep snow to attack two separate machine gun bunkers. Despite severe wounds, he fought relentlessly saving the lives of teammates.

“Our nation is rich with blessings, but our greatest blessings of all are the patriots … who, like John, carry our freedom on their shoulders, march into the face of evil, and fight to their very last breath so that we can live in freedom, and safety, and peace,” Trump said.

More than 250 people attended the White House ceremony that fell exactly 26 years after John and Valerie Nessel were married. Trump acknowledged the timing of the event turning to Valerie to say: “I know this day has truly brought special meaning. Exactly 26 years ago, you married John. Today, it is our great honor to share his incredible story with the world. So thank you very much, Valerie. I appreciate it.”

Also attending the ceremony were Chapman’s daughters, Madison and Brianna, his mother, Terry, his sister Lori, his brother Kevin, and Valerie’s parents, Rita and Jim Novak.

Chapman was killed on March 4, 2002, while on a reconnaissance operation in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan. As Trump described it, the team came under enemy fire and Chapman disregarded his own safety to engage the enemy.

“He fearlessly charged an enemy bunker, up a steep incline in thigh-deep snow, and into hostile fire, directly engaging the enemy. Upon reaching the bunker, Sgt. Chapman assaulted and cleared the position, killing all enemy occupants,” Trump said.

“With complete disregard for his own life, Sgt. Chapman deliberately moved from cover only 12 meters from the enemy, and exposed himself, once again, to attack a second bunker, from which an emplaced machine gun was firing on his team. During this assault from an exposed position directly in the line of intense fire, Sgt. 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,” Trump said.

Congressman John Larson and Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy also attended the ceremony.

“It was humbling to be a part of the Medal of Honor ceremony today for Sgt. Chapman at the White House. Sgt. Chapman is an American hero deserving of this honor. He distinguished himself in combat with selflessness, bravery and valor,” Larson said.

“When Sgt. Chapman was called to duty, he didn’t hesitate to answer. He will forever be remembered for his heroic efforts in Afghanistan and his service to our nation,” Murphy said.

“What Sgt. Chapman did in the mountains of Afghanistan — fighting to his last breath, after being mortally wounded, to protect his fellow service members — is the exact type of extraordinary strength, service, and sacrifice worthy of the Medal of Honor,” Blumenthal said.

Chapman was the first Connecticut native to die in combat in Afghanistan, and the first member of the Air Force to be awarded the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.