President Donald Trump has posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. John Chapman for “extraordinary heroism” in March 2002 during the Battle of Takur Ghar in Afghanistan.
Trump hailed Chapman’s heroism in the East Room in front of his widow, Valerie Nessel, adult daughters Madison and Brianna, and mother, Terry Chapman. Nessel accepted the honor on Chapman’s behalf.
Chapman is the first Air Force member to receive the nation’s highest military honor since the Vietnam War.
The honor comes long after the fatal firefight and was based partly on drone footage and new technology for analyzing videotape that showed Chapman fought on even after his fellow troops pulled out and left him behind because they thought he was dead.
On the night of the battle, Chapman’s helicopter came under enemy fire. A teammate was ejected, and the helicopter crash landed. Chapman and his team members returned to Takur Ghar mountain to rescue their teammate.
“Sergeant Chapman charged into enemy fire through harrowing conditions, seized an enemy bunker, and killed its enemy occupants,” the White House wrote in a statement. “He then moved from cover to engage a machine gun firing on his team from a second bunker.”
Earlier this year, the Air Force confirmed via surveillance footage that after Chapman’s teammates first left the mountain, he fought relentlessly, despite being seriously wounded. He is believed to have engaged in hand-to-hand combat before being felled.