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Medal of Honor posthumously awarded to Air Force sergeant killed in Afghanistan

Posted at 5:22 PM, Aug 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-23 09:23:00-04
Medal of honor presentation
Valerie Nessel and President Donald Trump pose for a photo with the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on Aug. 22, 2018. (NBC News)

WASHINGTON – President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to a member of the Air Force Wednesday, the first time an airman to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.

Valerie Nessel, Air Force Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman’s wife, accepted the Medal of Honor at the White House Wednesday.

Chapman was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2002.

Chapman was aboard a Chinook helicopter that came under heavy fire on Takur Ghar mountain on March 4, 2002. When the aircraft was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, a Navy SEAL fell out of the helicopter onto the mountain as the crew managed to crash land in the valley.

The survivors of the crash landing were able to return to base on another helicopter. But the Navy SEALs and Technical Sgt. Chapman volunteered to return to the mountain to find the missing SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts.

Working alongside the SEALs, Sergeant Chapman is credited with charging through enemy fire, taking over an enemy bunker, and engaging a second bunker while coming under machine gun fire.

The team discovered Petty Officer 1st Class Roberts was executed by his captors on the mountain. The rescue operation became a fight for their lives.  Chapman was cut off from the Navy SEALs as he called in air support. He was severely wounded, yet continued to fight, until his death.

“In this final act of Supreme courage, John gave his life for his fellow warriors,” President Trump said. “Through his extraordinary sacrifice, John helped save more than 20 American servicemembers, some of whom are here today.”

March 4, 2002 was a heartbreaking day for the U.S. military as 7 service members were killed in action during Operation Anaconda.