MSgt John A. Chapman
'Service Before Self' Award
Recognizing Extraordinary Acts of Service
2023 Service Before Self award recipient
Retired U.S. Air Force
Command Chief Master Sergeant William C. Markham
In 2019, an incredible journey commenced under the leadership of Retired U.S. Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant William Markham. With an unwavering commitment to the principles of service, he, alongside a dedicated team of legal and medical professionals, set out on a mission that would positively impact the lives of numerous veterans. This mission, Project One Vet @ A Time (POVAT), bore the unmistakable marks of his distinguished 30-year military career, encompassing tactical, operational, and strategic leadership.
Command Chief Master Sergeant William C. Markham, AF Special Tactics Combat Controller during his illustrious tenure in the U.S. Air Force, CCM(R) Markham consistently demonstrated his unwavering dedication, frequently deploying in support of critical missions and earning numerous accolades. Yet, it was not only his service record that defined him but also his inspirational journey that shaped him into the noble individual he is today. As a young boy, when asked about his aspirations for the future, Will's response remained a constant guiding light: "I just want to take care of people." These principles propelled him to dedicate the past two decades to raising funds for veterans and their families, with steadfast support from his community.
Project OVAT's primary objective is to offer legal and medical assistance to veterans navigating the intricate Department of Veterans Affairs disability claim process. They shoulder the burden of bills, expenses, and fees to ensure veterans receive the benefits they have rightfully earned. The transition from military service and the process of filing a disability claim with the VA can be an overwhelming experience. Project OVAT confronts this challenge head-on, connecting veterans with a nationwide network of representatives and experts proficient in navigating the VA bureaucracy. Their professional advocates simplify the process by applying current law, relevant legislation, regulations, and medical histories, even pursuing hearings before the VA and the Board of Veterans Appeals when necessary.
CCM(R) Markham will receive the award during the Air Force Falcons vs Army Black Knights Football Game at Mile High Stadium
The traditional annual face-off between the Air Force Falcons and the Army Black Knights, a renowned and revered tradition marked by intense competition and unwavering commitment, is poised to transcend its status as a mere football game this year. In a similar vein of fiery spirit and tenacity, the U.S. Air Force Academy's sophomore class of 2026 has etched its name in history by instigating a significant policy change in selecting an enlisted airman as their Exemplar. The Class of 2026 has made a groundbreaking choice by designating Medal of Honor recipient Master Sergeant John A. Chapman as their Exemplar, marking not only the first-ever enlisted Exemplar but also the first Special Tactics Airman to receive this honor.
This annual matchup is an opportunity for the on-field presentations to honor exemplary service and selflessness. The Combat Control Foundation, along with John Chapman’s family, will present the MSgt John A. Chapman "Service Before Self" Award to U.S. Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller (Ret) Command Chief Master Sergeant William "CM" Markham, acknowledging his outstanding contributions to the United States Air Force Special Tactics community and the veteran population.
CCM(R) Markham's dedication to service and his comrades is nothing short of exceptional. He etched his name in history as the first Airman to set foot in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. His remarkable courage in the face of danger earned him the military's third-highest decoration for valor, the prestigious Silver Star Medal.
Throughout his illustrious career in the Air Force, Markham consistently embodied an unwavering commitment to his lifelong mission of "I just want to take care of people." His guiding principles, encapsulated by the mottos "Freedom to maneuver" and "Always find the way to YES," have been his guiding light. In the two decades that have followed his military service, Markham has dedicated himself to the noble cause of serving veterans and their families.
The MSgt John A. Chapman "Service Before Self" Award, named after the heroic actions of Medal of Honor recipient Master Sergeant John A. Chapman, pays tribute to exceptional individuals who exemplify the core values of the Air Force, placing service above personal interests and displaying selflessness and dedication in their actions. CCM(R) Markham's unwavering commitment to this ethos makes him a most deserving recipient of this prestigious award.
The award presentation will take place during the scheduled timeout between the 1st to 2nd quarter of the Air Force Falcons vs. Army Black Knights game on November 4, 2023, further strengthening the bonds of unity and camaraderie that exist between the branches of our military.
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Learn more about the Actions of Valor taken by these elite combat controllers
Past recipients of the MSgt John A. Chapman Service Before Self Award
2022 recipient - Brigadier General Dale E. Stovall USAF (Ret.)
USAFA Class of 1962 recipient of the Air Force Cross, recipient of Silver Star with oak leaf cluster for actions as air rescue helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He is the 1973 recipient of the U.S. Air Force Academy Alumni Association Jabara Award for Airmanship. He was the 2022 (sixth) recipient of the Combat Control Foundation’s Master Sergeant John A Chapman Service Before Self Award. Read previous coverage here.
2021 recipient - Sergeant First Class Rick Caldwell U.S. Army
A former AFSOC USAF Pararescue Airman (PJ) who is now serving as a U.S. Army Special Forces Medical Sergeant. For his actions serving in Afghanistan with an Army Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA), he received the Silver Star. He is the 2021 (fifth) recipient of the Combat Control Foundation’s Master Sergeant John A Chapman Service Before Self Award.
2020 recipient - Colonel Thaddeus Allen USAF (Ret.)
Class of 1992 graduate of the USAFA and a former Vice Director of Athletics at the Academy. The Colonel served as a Special Tactics Officer and had command of the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron. He is the 2020 (fourth) recipient of the Combat Control Foundation’s Master Sergeant John A Chapman Service Before Self Award.
2019 recipient - Senior Master Sergeant Michael Perolio USAF
Recipient of both the Silver Star and Bronze Star with Valor for actions taken in Afghanistan as a Combat Controller. He is the 2019 (third) recipient of the Combat Control Foundation’s Master Sergeant John A Chapman Service Before Self Award. Read about his Combat Control Act of Valor here.
2018 recipient - Chief Master Sergeant Robert Gutierrez USAF
Current AFSOC Combat Control Pipeline Manager, recipient of the Air Force Cross for actions taken while a Combat Controller in Afghanistan. He is the 2018 (second) recipient of the Combat Control Foundation’s Master Sergeant John A Chapman Service Before Self Award. Read about his Combat Control Act of Valor here.
2017 recipient - Lieutenant Colonel Barry Crawford
USAF Class of 2003 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy; he is the recipient of the Air Force Cross for actions taken while a Special Tactics Officer in Afghanistan. He has the unique distinction of transitioning from his career as a STO, to becoming an A-10 pilot. He is the first recipient (2017) of the Combat Control Foundation’s Master Sergeant John A Chapman Service Before Self Award. Read about his Combat Control Act of Valor here.