President Donald Trump on Wednesday posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant John Chapman, whose tragic death in March 2002 in Afghanistan underscored the bravery of U.S. service members under extraordinarily difficult conditions. The circumstances of his death also sparked a controversy that continues even today: Was Chapman left behind?
The White House announced in July that Chapman had been approved for the award for his conspicuous gallantry under fire in Afghanistan. This is the first Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat, to be given to a member of the U.S. Air Force since the Vietnam war.
For Chapman’s family, it’s been 16 years since Valerie Nessel received notice that her husband had been killed on the snowy crest of the Takur Ghar mountain ridges of Afghanistan, less than six months after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Nessel then had to figure out how to break the news to their two daughters.
Chapman, a resident of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, and his fellow teammates of Naval Special Warfare Development Group, known to the public as SEAL Team Six, made a daring decision to head back into a militant stronghold to save the life of U.S. Navy SEAL Neil C. Roberts. Roberts had fallen out of a battle-damaged Chinook helicopter that had taken hostile fire after the aircraft attempted to insert the elite special operation forces, who were originally tasked with setting up an observation post.