Our Parade will be held on Saturday, June 20th at 11 am. Meet at the Church of Christ beside the high school Be there by 9 to be judged. This year’s parade is going to be very special to Centerburg as the theme will be “Honoring Our War Hero from the Vietnam War, Capt. Peter Hayden Chapman, USAF”! Long time residents remember Hayden playing football, playing in the band and such and his handsome face set many girl’s hearts fluttering! He was the only boy in a family of six sisters! Five of the six were older so they must have spoiled him badly! Newer or younger locals need to know his story, the only casualty from the Heart of Ohio. Capt. Chapman was 31 years old and was killed in action in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Hayden was ready to return home just days away when he volunteered to fly the “Jolly Green” rescue helicopter on a rescue mission while attempting to rescue two American airmen who had been shot down and were hiding behind enemy lines He told the pilot who was supposed to lead the mission that he had a family and kids so it was better for him to stay on base.. The ‘copter was downed by enemy ground fire on 6 April 1972 and was the entire crew were killed in action.
Twenty-five years after the longest search-and-rescue mission in Air Force history, two para-rescuemen, a mechanic, photographer, pilot, and co-pilot, were remembered November 19, 1997, for giving their lives trying to save others. Six crewmen from Jolly Green 67, Captains John Call III and Peter Chapman II, Technical Sergeants Allen J. Avery, James Alley, and Roy D. Prater, and Sergeant William R. Pearson, were honored at Arlington National Cemetery.
Their remains were finally returned home from their fatal rescue attempt. Captain Chapman’s remains, found, recovered and returned to authorities by farmers in Vietnam, at last, were home. Chapman’s relatives were notified that some of his bone fragments, along with those of three other crew members from the crash on April 6, 1972, had been positively identified. Advances in DNA technology allowed the Armed Services DNA Identification Lab to make the determination. The remains had been recovered in 1988 and had been in the lab since then.
The family had a funeral in 1972 when Chapman was declared killed in action. Then in November 1997, his family had a full military funeral for him and buried what remains had been identified – tooth fragments – in the family plot in Lock, Ohio. There also was a military funeral in Arlington, Va., in November 1997 when a single headstone for all six crew members was erected.
Chapman was piloting a helicopter in the Quang Tri province when it was shot down, crashed and burned trying to rescue Lt. Col. Iceal “Gene” Hambleton, a jet pilot. Hambleton’s 12-day ordeal as he escaped the Viet Cong became the subject of a book and movie, BAT-21.
Chapman’s nephew retired Air Force Maj. Brad Huffman, 58, of Delaware, said he idolized his uncle and chose to follow him into the Air Force. Chapman also is remembered with an annual award to a Centerburg High School senior who exemplifies the values he stood for. “He was like a big brother to me,” Maj. Huffman said. “It’s an emotional time because it does bring up old wounds, considering the war ended in 1973 and we’re talking about it 37 years later.”
It should be noted that for some time Chapman flew the huge C130 “Hercules” plane transporting troops to Vietnam and bringing injured troops back to the US on the return trips. Huffman actually flew the very plane his uncle had piloted. Not the same type of plane, the ACTUAL plane! Huffman is to date, the only CHS Alumni who has graduated from an armed services academy, when he graduated from the US Air Force Academy in 1974.
The small airport just west of town on Rt. 3 is and forever will be the Captain P.H. Chapman Memorial Airport, no matter who owns that plot of land.
In Capt. Chapman’s honor, the Grand Marshalls for this year’s parade will be Chapman’s three surviving sisters, Jean Huffman, Carol Evans, and Beth Murphy. Other nieces and nephews will also ride on the special float.
One other HUGE surprise will be announced after confirmation! Stay tuned!