POPE ARMY AIRFIELD, N.C. -- This article has been localized from Medal of Honor recipient John Chapman memorialized at 352nd Special Warfare Training Squadron.
Master Sgt. John Chapman was honored during a dedication ceremony at Pope Army Airfield on May 30, 2019.
A life-size figure of Chapman, a hand-drawn portrait and a replica of his Medal of Honor were unveiled and placed on permanent display at the 352nd Special Warfare Training Squadron's Benini Heritage Center. An outdoor memorial ceremony followed the unveiling, with Valerie Nessel, Chapman's widow, in attendance. Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, was keynote speaker at the event.
Senior Airman Nathan Towns, 24th Air Force manpower, personnel and services technician, and portrait artist, worked 32 hours last November to finish the portrait.
"I chose to create this portrait to honor Master Sgt. John Chapman wearing the Medal of Honor," said Towns. "While in Basic Military Training in 2016, my heritage flight was 'Chapman.' At the time I only knew he was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross for his heroics on that fateful day. It wasn’t until his Medal of Honor award ceremony last year that I realized who and what he did. I was taken back, especially while watching with co-workers the drone footage unveiled that attributed to the upgrade to the Medal of Honor."
When he showed his finished work to a co-worker, the individual framed and presented it to the Special Warfare School at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Towns was later invited to present a print at the dedication ceremony.
“Pope Air Force Base, now Pope Army Airfield, is a special place in the history of Air Force combat control and special tactics over the past four decades. It is a special place for John Chapman, where you have the combat control schoolhouse he went through,” said Hughes. “Memorializing him here, where we forge the next generation of special tactics warriors is particularly fitting.”
Combat control is the most highly decorated Air Force career field, for acts of valor, since the Vietnam War. Chapman's figure and the MoH replica are placed at the entrance to the schoolhouse as a centerpiece for the museum, to both inspire and remind students of the sacrifices of the fallen.
“This is truly the intersection of heritage and heroes,” said Wilson. “Every Airman here has measured themselves or has been inspired in past centuries by heroes like Levitow, Pitsenbarger, Sijan. They will do the same for John Chapman and they will do it for years to come.”
Prior to the event, Nessel had the opportunity to address the upcoming graduating class of combat controllers.
“It is particularly impactful that John’s legacy is standing guard over the future of our combat control community; a community I consider to be family.” said Nessel. “I hope John’s dedication and sacrifice continue to inspire the next generation of heroes who are answering the call to serve and protect our nation. And that they always remember the stories of those who have gone before them, so their names are never forgotten.”
Maj. Michael Bain, 352nd SWTS commander, was a close friend and teammate of Chapman’s. He and others made it possible to have the likeness and MoH replica housed in the Heritage Center.
“[Chapman] understood the capabilities that combat controllers bring to the fight, and it was a badge of honor to know that he was on my team,” said Bain. “He was the first friend to go, and sometimes I don’t feel like we talk enough about him. Having him memorialized at the schoolhouse feels like a way of bringing him home.”
For more information about Master Sgt. John Chapman and his heroism, visit https://static.dma.mil/usaf/medalofhonor-chapman/.