Yesterday, NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 featured the “600 Miles of Remembrance” as 40 cars displayed the name of a fallen soldier on its windshield. Car number 19, driven by Martin Truex Jr. featured the name John A. Chapman. Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman is a name some of my eagle-eyed regular readers might find familiar. It is often featured in the photos of my blog posts. John Chapman grew up in Windsor Locks, CT. He was living and working in Windsor Locks when he joined the Air Force in 1986. It seems he served multiple times, including after the attacks in September 2001. He died in combat on March 4, 2002. He was 36 years old, the first Connecticut resident to die in Afghanistan and he died trying to save the troops with him after their helicopter was shot down.
Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2018, the first airman to receive the Nation’s highest honor since the Vietnam War.
I thought about titling this post “Hometown Hero,” but I didn’t know John Chapman, and Windsor Locks isn’t my hometown. I moved to Windsor Locks in 1983, just as John Chapman was about to graduate from Windsor Locks High School.
That’s how it is with heroes. Most of us didn’t know most of them. Still, they died in service to our country. Regardless of how you feel about the mission they were on when they died, you have to respect the fact that they answered a call of duty, they trained, they served and they died – for us.
Below (copied from Wikipedia) are the words of the citation accompanying his Medal of Honor.
Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as an Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller, attached to a Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Team conducting reconnaissance operations in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002. During insertion, the team’s helicopter was ambushed causing a teammate to fall into an entrenched group of enemy combatants below. Sergeant Chapman and the team voluntarily reinserted onto the snow-capped mountain, into the heart of a known enemy stronghold to rescue one of their own. 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. By his heroic actions and extraordinary valor, sacrificing his life for the lives of his teammates, Technical Sergeant Chapman upheld the highest traditions of military service and reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
The circumstances of Technical Sergeant Chapman’s death in battle were certainly heroic. The circumstances of his being recognized for his sacrifice are less clear. I will not go into that story. You can look up his story. There is supposed to be / may already be a book about him, and the book is supposed to be turned into a feature film.
For those readers outside the US, today is Memorial Day in the United States. A day when we honor the brave men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. I think of the Veterans of Windsor Locks every time Maddie and I go for a walk. On the days when we enter the park, we enter via Technical Sergeant Chapman Way.