More About Chappy and Combat Control

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We come together today to honor our brother Combat Controller John Chapman, to dedicate his name to this CCT memorial here at Hurlburt Field that bears the names of Combat Controllers who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom and for this great nation of ours. It is a solemn occasion to be sure, but it is also a time to celebrate - celebrate the life of John Chapman, and what he did with his life. And John's was indeed an extraordinary life - a life shaped and characterized by the choices John made. Sometime early in his life, John chose how he was going to live…with enthusiasm and dedication. He committed himself to his extraordinary family and close circle of friends. He chose excellence - and it was evident in all he did - especially as an athlete. Also early on, John chose his country…in 1985 he joined the United States Air Force. In 1989 he chose to become a combat controller and chose a career dedicated to the mastering of his profession. In August of 1992 he made one of his very best choices when he chose Valerie Novak as his wife and lifelong companion, and her support made him even better at what he did. And John made the greatest of choices in his life when he chose God…just as God had chosen him.

On the 3rd of March 2002, John, along with his special operations teammates, infiltrated a windswept mountaintop in eastern Afghanistan called Takur Ghar. During the insertion, John's helicopter was struck by enemy fire and as the crippled craft lurched out of the LZ, one team member, US Navy SEAL Neil Roberts, fell to the ground below. John, as well as every member of the team made the choice to return immediately to rescue their fallen mate. Soon John's team had reinserted; though this time, they knew exactly what they were going into - they were going into the Jaws of Death. Within minutes, the team was taking enemy fire from large and small weaponry in a withering crossfire and was in grave peril. It was here that John made the final choice of his extraordinary life. John charged directly at an enemy crew-served weapon, taking out two al Qaida soldiers. He turned and fired on a second position mere meters from where he stood; and it was here that he was mortally wounded and fell. John's actions had major consequences. His team leader said that if John had not engaged and killed the enemy machine gun crew, they would have surely killed his whole team. US forces fought on that night and into the next day, and in the end, we took Takur Ghar and destroyed scores of al Qaida terrorists that were massing for battle. A heavy price was paid though, 7 brave Americans died on that hilltop.

John's choices and the way he lived his life had enormous impact on those of us who were lucky enough to know and love him. There were other heroes that emerged from the Battle of Takur Ghar - one is in this room now - Valerie Chapman. Hers is a life characterized by choices too - for she too chose family, and she chose America, and she chose John…and she too chose God. Another thing and I thank God Almighty for it, Val has chosen our unit and our men. After John died, instead of withdrawing and leaving us, she has become an amazing supporter of our squadron and all of us. She has been a source of inspiration for those of us who are engaged in this war on terrorism. Val, I speak for everyone at the unit when I say God bless you for all you have done for us - we love you.

On Sept 11, 2001, the forces of Evil made some choices of their own - they chose to cowardly attack this nation and our citizenry. They have since witnessed the unity of the United States of America and our determination to hunt down those who threaten our nation and our way of life. John was at the very front of that effort, an effort that has pushed the Taliban out of Afghanistan and has the bad guys on the run. He looks down on us now from heaven and urges us on. It is up to us to continue and finish what John has started - and John, we are up to that task. God bless all of you and God bless America.

                                                                                                              Ken Rodriguez, Commander 24th STS