The U.S. Air Force on Thursday released an aerial video that shows highlights of Tech Sgt. John Chapman’s heroics during hand-to-hand combat on an Afghanistan peak before he was killed by Al Qaeda militants.
Chapman, 36, a native of Windsor Locks, Conn., could be seen on March 4, 2002, charging the enemy on Takur Ghar, a 10,000-foot mountain, Task & Purpose reported. Chapman joined Navy SEALs in an effort to recover a wounded comrade who had fallen from the 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, the White House said.
The Air Force said he was struck and temporarily incapacited by enemy fire when he moved from one protective cover to engage the enemy.
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 regained consciousness and fought for an hour after being gunned down but managed to kill two more enemies, reports said.
Slabinski, who completed 15 combat tours, told the New York Times in 2016 that he was “95 percent certain” that Chapman was killed and was skeptical of the video’s accuracy and analyses. He told officials that Chapman’s actions helped save his team that day.
Slabinski retired from the Navy in 2014 after more than 25 years of service. He said following the ceremony that the medal “belongs to so many others” and named the teammates “who followed me without hesitation.” Slabinski said the medal also belongs to seven Americans who died on the mountaintop.
“They gave all for us. This honor is truly theirs. They are the true heroes,” he said in a statement delivered on the White House driveway.
But Deborah Lee James, who worked under President Obama as the Air Force secretary, said Slabinski deserves his medal and his contributions shouldn’t be underestimated.
“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 Washington Post. “He thought he was dead, and he was responsible for four or five others that he was trying to save.”
President Trump will award the Medal of Honor posthumously to Chapman’s family on Aug. 22 — 16 years after he died. He will be the first airman to receive the award since the Vietnam War.
James had recommended Chapman for the award, but she said it stalled.
“I believe the SEALs want to honor John Chapman,” James told the paper. “What some don’t want is they don’t want it linked to him getting back up and fighting back on.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report