Selfless sacrifice, local mom recalls her son's infamous battle in Afghanistan

Published: Oct. 10, 2018 at 9:40 PM MDT
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The mother of an airman who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor is talking to 11 News about her son's remarkable courage during a deadly battle on a mountaintop in Afghanistan.

Colorado Springs resident Terry Chapman was with her son's wife and two daughters when President Donald Trump presented the Medal of Honor to his widow in August. Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman was killed in Afghanistan in 2002 in a battle that took the lives of seven members of our military.

A video released to the public more than a decade later shows Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman's final moments. The combat controller was on a mission in Afghanistan when the Chinook carrying him along with five other SEAL Team members was ambushed by a militant who shot a rocket propelled grenade. That's when Petty Officer Neil Roberts fell out.

After a controlled crash landing a few miles away, they got on another helicopter and headed back for Roberts.

"They wouldn't leave him?" 11 News Anchor asked Tech Sgt. John Chapman's mother.

"Nope," Terry Chapman responded with a solemn face. "What they didn’t know in that time frame is that he [Roberts] was already killed."

Drone video, that can be viewed at the bottom of this article, shows the SEAL Team getting off that helicopter as Sgt. Chapman runs up a steep mountain slope. While running, bullets were coming at them from three directions.

"He [Sgt. Chapman] went toward the machine gun to try to put it out of commission, which he did," Terry Chapman describing her son's heroic actions.

Sgt. Chapman headed for the second bunker and was hit. You can see in the drone video as Sgt. Chapman falls. Sgt. Chapman didn't appear to be moving so they made a decision to pull the wounded off.

The video shows Sgt. Chapman started moving again and for more than an hour he was fighting the enemy.

"And then when the quick response team was coming in on a Ranger helicopter they were starting to come under fire and he knew that a rocket grenade would blow them out of the sky, just like it damaged their helicopter," Terry explained the hostile environment her son was fighting in. "So he [Sgt. Chapman] stood up to lay down cover fire and during that time he was fatally shot."

Terry was alone in her kitchen late at night when she got a knock at her door with the horrific news of her son's death.

"When I opened up the door I see all these people in uniform," Terry recalled, trying to hold back tears. "I said not my Johnny."

She didn't know the full details of what happened to her son until recently. She says she wanted to see the drone video showing what she calls her son's "last hurrah."

"It gives me closure," Terry stated with some relief in her voice. "All these years I’ve never had the whole story."

Now the rest of the world knows, too. Her son's bravery and heroism acknowledged with the military's highest honor.

"Before he left he said I’m going to do everything humanly possible to back my team and he did that and more," Terry said proudly.

Sgt. Chapman's wife, Valerie, accepted the Medal of Honor for her husband on the day that would have been their 26th wedding anniversary.

Chapman is now the first special tactics airman to receive the Medal of Honor, as well as the first airman to receive the nation’s highest award for valor for actions since the Vietnam War.

Drone video shows Tech Sgt. Chapman fighting al Qaeda militants

"Before he left he said I’m going to do everything humanly possible to back my team and he did that and more." Watch 11 News at 10 to hear more from the mother of a man who died a hero serving our country. The video below shows the moment Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman was killed while fighting against al Qaeda militants in Afghanistan trying to rescue a stranded teammate.

Posted by KKTV 11 News on Wednesday, October 10, 2018