Local fallen Airman to be recognized with Medal of Honor

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DESTIN-FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A fallen airman based out of Hulbert is receiving the highest honor possible.

NewsChannel 7/Local 18 News was at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport as the widow and children of Air Force Technical Sergeant John Chapman headed to the White House on his behalf.

On March 4, 2002, Sergeant Chapman made the ultimate sacrifice.

Now, nearly 16 years later, he's officially being recognized for his actions with the highest honor a service member can receive, the Medal of Honor.

"It's such a source of pride for our community to be here to celebrate the sacrifice and patriotism of the Chapman family," State Representative Matt Gaetz said.

Chapman chose to fight for his country, even if it meant leaving his family behind.

"He lived in the moment, he was just a true professional. His tenacity and his drive was just incredible. Again, I can't think of a better human that would represent what the Medal of Honor stands for," Commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing Colonel Claude Tudor said.

An airman through and through, officials said on that fateful night Chapman was on a mission to try to rescue one of his fellow comrades when he found himself caught in enemy fire.

"We all miss John. Again, we work in a joint environment with joint teammates all the time, but it wasn't just John lost that night. We had several other teammates lost that night and so we want to make sure we remember all of them as well," Col. Tudor said.

"Well, Florida's Congressional District is home to more active duty military than any congressional district in America and so when America goes to war, it's Northwest Florida's families who go the farthest and fight the hardest and sometimes pay the ultimate sacrifice," Gaetz added.

TSgt. Chapman is the 19th Airman to be recognized with this honor and the first since the Vietnam War. He's also the first combat controller in the Air Force's history.

"I believe this is the beginning of the story of Northwest Florida continuing to recognize the Chapman family and I think in the coming months and years, you'll see even more designations in our community that reflect this heroic service," Gaetz expressed.

The family is expected to arrive back home from their trip on Friday.