SAN ANTONIO, Texas — A special-warfare training center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland was named Wednesday for the late Air Force Master Sgt. John A. Chapman, on the 18th anniversary of the day he earned the Medal of Honor.
A Special Tactics airman whose Medal of Honor was presented posthumously in 2018, Chapman served with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, part of the Hurlburt Field-based 24th Special Operations Wing.
RELATED: ‘The deadliest man on the mountain’
With dozens of family, friends, airmen and high-ranking Air Force officers in attendance, the Medina Training Annex at JBSA-Lackland was rechristened the Chapman Training Annex.
During the ceremony, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson remembered Chapman as "a great warrior, a steadfast friend, a selfless patriot" and "an enduring reminder to all about the ideals of selfless service."
Chapman earned the Medal of Honor for his actions on March 4, 2002, on Takur Ghar, a mountaintop in Afghanistan where he was serving as part of a reconnaissance operation team.
When the team’s helicopter was attacked by machine gun fire, one team member fell from the aircraft. The team volunteered to return for the fallen team member and, once back on the ground, Chapman stormed an enemy bunker, and then stormed a machine-gun emplacement.
RELATED: Medal of Honor recipient honored at Hurlburt Field (PHOTOS)
Mortally wounded by enemy fire, Chapman fought on, protecting the occupants of a second helicopter before eventually succumbing to his massive injuries.
"There was no stopping John," Wilson said. "John died as he lived, a man of tremendous character."
And now, with his name on a facility at a base where he had trained 30 years before, airmen "shall forever be reminded of John’s unshakable service to this nation," Wilson said.
"This ceremony pays tribute to an airman who represents the best of our Air Force, who gave his life fighting to save his teammates," said Col. Parks Hughes, Special Warfare Training Wing commander.
Also speaking Wednesday was Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Education and Training Command, and a former commander of Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field.
Webb called Chapman’s heroism "a story of Air Force core values in action. ... It’s also a story of humble competence, of courage and of leadership."
"What an absolute honor. Wow!" said Chapman’s widow, Valerie Nessel, as she spoke Wednesday. Moments later, Nessel, along with one of her daughters. Brianna, Chapman’s mother and sister, other Chapman family members and Air Force officials including Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, unveiled a sign reading "Welcome to the Chapman Training Annex, Home of Air Force Special Warfare Training."
In her remarks, Nessel had a message for airmen who pursue the tough Air Force special warfare training.
"When doubts enter, one must remember John on that mountaintop," she said, noting that he was motivated by "a burning desire and love of teammates, regardless of the consequences to himself."
Chapman initially was awarded the Air Force Cross, but following a 2016 review ordered by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, he was deemed eligible for the Medal of Honor.
Chapman also is honored at Hurlburt Field, with the 24th Special Operations Building named in his honor, a portrait in the Hall of Heroes in the Air Force Special Operations Command building, and his name engraved on the installation’s Special Tactics Memorial.