John Chapman was born on July 14, 1965, in Springfield, Massachusetts, and grew up in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on September 27, 1985, and was trained as an Information Systems Operator. Chapman's first assignment was with the 1987th Information Systems Squadron at Lowry AFB, Colorado, where he served from February 1986 to June 1989. He then cross-trained into the Combat Control career field and served with the 1721st Combat Control Squadron at Pope AFB, North Carolina, from August 1990 to November 1992. His next assignment was as a Special Tactics Team Member with the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena AB, Okinawa, from November 1992 to October 1995. Sgt Chapman's final assignment was with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB, where he served from October 1995 until he was killed in action in the opening days of the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002. He was buried at the St. Mary Byzantine Cemetery in Windber, Pennsylvania. John married Valerie Novak of Windber, Pennsylvania, on August 22, 1992, and they had two children together, Madison and Brianna. On April 8, 1995, the container ship MV Merlin (T-AK 323) was renamed the MV TSgt John A. Chapman in his honor.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, U.S.C.,
awards the Air Force Cross to TSgt John Chapman for extraordinary heroism in military operation
against an armed enemy of the United States as a 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Combat
Controller in the vicinity of Gardez, in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan, on 4 March 2002.
On this date, during his helicopter insertion for a reconnaissance and time sensitive targeting
close air support mission, Sergeant Chapman's aircraft came under heavy machine gun fire and
received a direct hit from a rocket propelled grenade which caused a United States Navy Sea-Air-Land team member to fall from the aircraft. Though heavily damaged, the aircraft egressed
the area and made an emergency landing seven kilometers away. Once on the ground Sergeant
Chapman established communication with an AC-130 gunship to insure the area was secure
while providing close air support coverage for the entire team. He then directed the gunship
to begin the search for the missing team member. He requested, coordinated, and controlled
the helicopter that extracted the stranded team and aircrew members. These actions limited
the exposure of the aircrew and team to hostile fire. Without regard for his own life, Sergeant
Chapman volunteered to rescue his missing team member from an enemy stronghold. Shortly
after insertion, the team made contact with the enemy. Sergeant Chapman engaged and killed
two enemy personnel. He continued to advance, reaching the enemy position, then engaged a
second enemy position, a dug-in machine gun nest. At this time the rescue team came under
effective enemy fire from three directions. From close range he exchanged fire with the enemy
from minimum personal cover until he succumbed to multiple wounds. His engagement and
destruction of the first enemy position and advancement on the second position enabled his
team to move to cover and break enemy contact. In his own words, his Navy sea-air-land team
leader credits Sergeant Chapman unequivocally with saving the lives of the entire rescue team.
Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, aggressiveness in the face of the enemy,
and the dedication to the service of his country, Sergeant Chapman reflects the highest credit
upon himself and the United States Air Force.