President Trump posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Air Force Sgt. John Chapman, who gave his life to save more than 20 fellow service members on a mountain in Afghanistan in 2002.
Trump presented the award to Chapman’s family Wednesday. Chapman was the first airman to receive the award since the Vietnam War, officials said. The sergeant was a native of Windsor Locks, Conn., and the father of two young girls.
Trump said at the ceremony that Chapman, from an early age — his life was about: “to protect those in need.” The president said it began early when he protected a kid being bullied in kindergarten, setting the path of his life.
Trump said Chapman volunteered for Afghanistan after 9/11, telling his superior, “‘I need to go.’”
The U.S. Air Force released an aerial video several weeks ago showing Chapman’s heroics during the hand-to-hand combat on Takur Ghar, a 10,000-foot mountain. The video showed Chapman charging the enemy on the peak. He joined Navy SEALs to recover a wounded comrade who had fallen from an aircraft after it was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade.
Chapman “charged into enemy fire through harrowing conditions,” seized a bunker and killed its occupants, according to the White House. In an ensuing firefight with Al Qaeda militants, he was wounded severely but continued to fight until he was killed.
Britt K. Slabinski, a retired member of SEAL Team 6, who received the Medal of Honor in May for his heroics during the same 14-hour battle, believed Chapman was dead, and moved the team — including someone with a serious leg injury — off the battlefield, the New York Times reported.
Chapman, 36, regained consciousness and fought for an hour after being gunned down by Al Qaeda militants. He managed to kill two more enemies before he was killed on March 4, 2002.
The battle was under scrutiny after reports stated Chapman was abandoned by Slabinski and his team while he was alive, ABC News reported. A 30-month investigation discovered Chapman’s heroics after drone footage was released, the Washington Post reported.
“He really fought,” Trump emphasized emphatically at the ceremony, noting the family’s “good genes.” “He gave his life for his fellow warriors.”
Air Force Secretary Deborah James recommended Chapman receive the medal, and his contributions not be underestimated after examining footage of the battle. Trump approved the request.
“Nobody thinks that he did anything other than his absolute best on the worst day of his life,” James said of Slabinski, according to the Post. “He thought he was dead, and he was responsible for four or five others that he was trying to save.”
The award is given to those who risk their lives, and go above and beyond the call of duty.
Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche, Frank Miles and The Associated Press contributed to this report.