Whatever the politics surrounding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the heroism that was displayed in these conflicts demands awe and respect. We have heard tales of special forces doing impossible tasks and tales of ordinary soldiers going above and beyond in fulfilling their duties to one another and to their country.
During a battle in Afghanistan in 2002, SEAL Team 6 was under heavy fire atop a peak. Outnumbered, the group decided to descend down the mountain for extraction.
Though Chief Britt Slabinski was determined to get every man out alive, critically wounded Sergeant John Chapman stayed behind to fight-over the Al Qaeda fighters.
Only when Slabinski looked back and saw that Chapman did not appear to be breathing did he finally make the call to tend to the wounded (but alive) members of his team and get out of there.
14 years later, however, evidence shows that Chapman clung to life longer than previously thought. According to aircraft software, Chapman stayed alive long enough to give his fellow SEALs cover. For over an hour, Chapman held-down the Al Qaeda force, killing at least two fighters (one in hand-to-hand).
For his bravery, Chapman is being considered for the Medal of Honor.
Slabinski is pushing for Chapman to be recognized. “Is it within John’s character to go on and do this? Without a question,” the chief said. “If John did this stuff, I want him to get recognized.”
Of course, while the story is harrowing, it is also tragic to think that Chapman may have been left alive to die.
“These things happen in combat, but it’d be awful,” said Maj. Gen. Gary Harrell, a retired Delta Force commander who was involved in the broader operation that included the mountaintop episode. “It’d be terrible to find that out. It’s easy to say, ‘Well, I’d never leave someone behind.’ It’s a lot harder when you’re getting your ass shot off.”
He added, “If anybody thought Chapman was alive, we would have been trying to move heaven and earth to get him out of there.”
Though it is terrible that Chapman may have been left behind while alive, we should not forget the sacrifice he made and the fact that his efforts allowed for his fellow team members to escape under cover- a fact that likely saved lives.
God bless Sgt. Chapman.