Enlisted Heritage Hall honors fallen Airman

  • Published
  • By Carl Bergquist
  • Air University Public Affairs
A fallen hero was honored recently when the Enlisted Heritage Hall on Gunter Annex dedicated the Tech. Sgt. John Chapman exhibit.

Members of Sergeant Chapman's family and colleagues from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron were among more than 200 people attending the dedication ceremony.

A combat controller and Air Force Cross recipient, Sergeant Chapman was killed March 4, 2002, during an operation in Afghanistan when he "distinguished himself for extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy of the United States."

During a close-air support mission, Sergeant Chapman's helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, resulting in a Navy SEAL falling from the aircraft to the ground.

Once the disabled helicopter landed, Sergeant Chapman called in an AC-130 gunship to secure the area around the helicopter and to search for the injured Sailor. When he was located, Sergeant Chapman volunteered to help rescue him.

In the course of the extraction, the rescue team encountered heavy enemy resistance. During an intense close-range firefight with a dug-in machine-gunner, Sergeant Chapman was killed.

Valerie Chapman, Sergeant Chapman's widow, said the dedication was "a beautiful ceremony" and a great honor for both her husband and all combat controllers. She said since her husband's death, the 24th STS Airmen have become "even more of a part of my military family" than when her husband was alive.

"This exhibit at the Enlisted Heritage Hall is a wonderful way to honor him and the combat-controller community," said Ms. Chapman.

Terry Giaccone, Sergeant Chapman's mother, said the ceremony was a "very nice tribute" to her son.

"I think he would have been quite touched by the care and loving that was put into the ceremony and the exhibit," she said.

Col. Craig Rith, Sergeant Chapman's commander at 24th STS, said the sergeant had an "extraordinary life shaped by his dedication and enthusiasm."

The colonel said Sergeant Chapman chose excellence early in his life and dedicated himself to mastering his combat-controller duties.

"On that wind-swept mountain near Gardez, Afghanistan, (Sergeant Chapman) knew he was going into the jaws of death when he volunteered to rescue his fellow team member," Colonel Rith said. "He made the final decision of his life when he charged that machine gun and had he not, the entire rescue crew would have been killed."

Following the formal ceremony outside the hall, the Chapman family was escorted into the museum for the exhibit's unveiling.

As the crowd watched, Ms. Chapman and her daughters, Brianna and Madison, pulled the covering from the exhibit honoring Sergeant Chapman.

The exhibit features a life-size mannequin of Sergeant Chapman, his Air Force Cross and information about him and his mission in Afghanistan. (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)