WINDSOR LOCKS, Conn. - On September 30, 2018, the 103rd Airlift Wing honored the sacrifice of recent Medal of Honor recipient Master Sgt. John Chapman during a commemoration event held by the town of Windsor Locks, Conn.
Chapman, an Air Force combat controller and life-long resident of Windsor Locks, Conn., received the award posthumously on August 22, 2018 for his actions during a mountaintop battle in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan on March 4, 2002. Chapman is the first special tactics Airman to receive the Medal of Honor, and is the first Airman to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Vietnam War.
When Windsor Locks’ First Selectman Christopher Kervick received confirmation that Chapman would be receiving the Medal of Honor, he knew the town needed to recognize this distinction in some way.
“Once word came down that [Chapman] was receiving the Medal of Honor, a few different groups reached out to me,” Kervick said. “The commander of the Windsor Locks American Legion contacted me and also reached out to the town’s (Veterans of Foreign Wars). We all held an organizational meeting and the event took off from there.
“Anyone who had any sort of official capacity in town really started to think this [event] is something that has to happen,” Kervick said. “To have someone from our town receive this award, it’s almost bigger than him to a certain point. The qualities that he demonstrated when he paid the ultimate sacrifice; ultimate selflessness. This type of character is what you want your kids to have; putting others before yourself. I always think of possible teaching opportunities and thought holding this event would be an incredible teaching opportunity for people in town, yes, to show how sad his loss was, but to also look at what he did, look at what it took as a person to display these qualities. It’s a good story that should be told.”
Kervick reached out to the 103rd Airlift Wing for support of the town’s commemoration event for Chapman, and the Flying Yankees were privileged and honored to have been able to take part in this special day.
“I felt honored being involved,” said Staff Sgt. Christina Muniz, 103rd Airlift Wing Honor Guardsman. “It was such a huge event with our base representing. The Medal of Honor recipient is huge, the work that [Chapman] did is humbling. Being a member of the Honor Guard team, that’s what we are meant to do, we are meant to give people their last respects, and this was a way for us, personally, to do that.”
The Flying Yankees provided the Honor Guard for the commemoration event as well as a four-ship fly over.
The event began with a memorial dedication for Chapman at Memorial Hall in Windsor Locks, Conn. A memorial for Chapman was unveiled in front of a large crowd with the 103rd Airlift Wing’s Honor Guard presenting the colors. The Honor Guard then led the procession from the memorial site to the main event area at the Windsor Locks Town Hall where the Medal of Honor commemoration event was held.
Before the start of the commemoration, a 103rd Airlift Wing C-130H Hercules loaded with a jump team from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron of the United States Air Force Special Operations Command began flying towards the site. Once the aircraft was over the site, the five-man jump team leapt from the rear of the plane and landed in a field behind the town hall. The commemoration then began with introductions and the United States Air Force Heritage of America Band began to play the National Anthem. At the anthem’s finale, a four-ship formation of 103rd Airlift Wing C-130Hs flew over the cheering crowd and completed a missing man aerial salute, a tribute in which the third plane separates from the main formation and leaves a vacant position.
This celebration of Chapman’s life and commemoration of his sacrifice will be well-remembered for years to come by the Connecticut Air National Guard.
“It’s a story that will be told and retold for generations, the ‘John Chapman story’ joins the ranks of other legends like John Levitow and Bud Day,” said Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein during Chapman’s Hall of Heroes induction held at the Pentagon August 23, 2018. “This incredible warrior who inspires all of us to be better Airmen.”