fbpx Skip to content

Stay Up to Date!

Zip Code
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

‘No Greater Love’: The Medal of Honor in Afghanistan

The world has never been the same since Sept. 11, 2001.  

Evil showed its full might on that clear, blue morning, striving to cripple this nation through terror, mayhem and immense sorrow after more than 3,000 innocent lives were murdered before our eyes. Yet, on that infamous, tragic day, the brave and good also reacted, repelling the darkness and inferno from inflicting total defeat.  

Within my lifetime, these United States have never felt more united before or since, as we cheered on President George W. Bush’s pledge, “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” 

This resilient spirit was that day’s ultimate legacy. It extended beyond America’s shores to Afghanistan with the launching of Operation Enduring Freedom after the Taliban refused to extradite al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.  

Fighting in the war’s initial stages was a Connecticut resident, John A. Chapman. Enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1985, the technical sergeant sacrificed his life to save others during the Battle of Takur Ghar, March 4, 2002.  

For his actions, Chapman was posthumously ranked master sergeant, while his family received his Medal of Honor decoration from President Donald Trump on Aug. 22, 2018. His heroism is reportedly the first Medal of Honor actions ever recorded on video. 

This is Chapman’s story — a man who displayed extraordinary valor in the fight against terror.  

A Man of Character 

Born on July 14, 1965, Chapman grew up in Windsor Locks. As early as kindergarten, the Connecticut native was determined to protect those in need, standing up against a bully for his friend’s sake. He was a “compassionate and considerate” person, who all his childhood friends described as someone “so worth being remembered because he was such a good person all around,” according to an Aug. 23, 2018, speech given by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright.  

His biography in the National Medal of Honor Museum states that Chapman was a “humble and soft-spoken young man who never bragged and reached out to others in need of help and support.” One example shared during his induction into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon — a room dedicated to honor the brave service members who have received the Medal of Honor — was that “when his group of friends passed an acquaintance in the school halls and noticed she was upset, it was John who stopped to talk to her, consoling her as she shared the news of losing her father.” 

Chapman also excelled as a varsity soccer player while attending Windsor Locks High School. When he graduated in 1983, he included this prophetic quote in his yearbook: “Give of yourself before taking of someone else.” 

Two years later, Chapman enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He first worked on information systems before training as a combat controller, which is a program where only one in ten graduate and that “took two years and included high-intensity physical conditioning and technical education,” according to his biography. Chapman “excelled” and was then assigned to the 1721st Combat Control Squadron. 

In 1992, he married his wife, Valerie, and the couple had two daughters — Madison and Brianna. According to his biography, Chapman “dedicated himself to fatherhood with the same intensity that he did to the U.S. military.”   

“Those who knew John knew his greatest source of happiness came from spending time with family and that being a husband and a father was, to him, his ultimate success,” Chief Master Sgt. Wright said in his 2018 speech. “But those who knew him also knew of his full measure of devotion to helping others. If given the chance, John would do anything in his power to help someone in need.” 

After the September 11th terrorist attacks, Chapman felt the call of duty, volunteering to deploy to Afghanistan. He reportedly “walked into his superior’s office, and said, ‘I need to go.’”  

The Battle of Takur Ghar 

In March 2002, Sgt. Chapman participated in Operation Anaconda, the largest combat operation in Afghanistan after the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom. Along with Army Rangers and Navy SEALs, Chapman’s mission was to establish a reconnaissance outpost on the Takur Ghar mountain, and eliminate al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in the Shahi-Kot Valley and Arma Mountains. 

However, the operation’s MH-47 “Chinook” helicopter — tasked to deploy American soldiers — was ambushed, causing Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts to “fall into an entrenched group of enemy combatants,” according to Chapman’s Medal of Honor citation. Hearing their comrade’s dire situation, Chapman and his team “voluntarily reinserted” themselves on the “snow-capped mountain, into the heart of a known enemy stronghold to rescue one of their own.”  

The rest of his citation reads as follows:  

Without regard for his own safety, Sergeant Chapman immediately engaged, moving in the direction of the closest enemy position despite coming under heavy fire from multiple directions. 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, Sergeant Chapman assaulted and cleared the position, killing all enemy occupants. With complete disregard for his own life, Sergeant 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, Sergeant 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.” 

Because of his actions, Chapman saved his comrade’s lives at the cost of his own — he was 36 years old. He is buried at Saint Mary Byzantine Catholic Church Cemetery in Windber, Pa. 

Worthy of Remembrance 

Chapman was initially awarded the Air Force Cross, the second highest military decoration for airmen and guardians who distinguish themselves with extraordinary heroism in combat. It is equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross (Army), Navy Cross (Navy) and the Coast Guard Cross (Coast Guard).  

However, upon further review of his actions, Chapman received the Medal of Honor, becoming the first Special Tactics Airman to be bestowed the distinction. On Aug. 23, 2018, he was inducted into the Hall of Heroes. 

The recognition for her late husband’s actions moved Valerie; however, she said that Chapman “would want to recognize the other men that lost their lives. Even though he did something he was awarded the Medal of Honor for, he would not want the other guys to be forgotten — that they were part of the team together. I think he would say that his Medal of Honor was not just for him, but for all of the guys who were lost.” 

Chapman is one of dozens of Connecticut residents who received the Medal of Honor, but the only one for actions during the 21st century.  

As we approach the 22nd anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, let us not forget the sacrifice of those — like Chapman — who joined to serve our country in order to protect their loved ones and countrymen. We are indebted to their sacrifice, for as Jesus Christ proclaimed more than two thousand years ago: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  

Till next time — 

Your Yankee Doodle Dandy, 

Andy Fowler 


Andrew Fowler

Andrew Fowler joined Yankee Institute in July 2022 after four years in the communications department for the Knights of Columbus international headquarters in New Haven. In that span, he managed the organization’s social media accounts and wrote for the company’s various publications, including COLUMBIA magazine, which is delivered to nearly two million members. Additionally, he is the curator of the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center’s online exhibit “K of C Baseball: An American Story,” that explores the intricate ties between the organization and the growth of the national pastime. He was also a production assistant for MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and the 2016 Dinesh D’Souza film, “Hillary’s America.” Andrew currently serves on the Milford Board of Education. He is an avid runner and basketball fan, cinephile, and an aspiring musician and author. He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2015.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *