President Trump will present his first Medal of Honor as commander-in-chief Monday – to a 71-year-old Vietnam vet who was injured while saving his comrades as an Army medic.
James McCloughan entered the “kill zone” during the Battle of Hui Yon Hill in 1969 to rescue his fellow soldiers and was struck by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade.
In its announcement last month, the White House said McCloughan “voluntarily risked his life on nine separate occasions to rescue wounded and disoriented comrades.
He suffered wounds from shrapnel and small arms fire on three separate occasions, but refused medical evacuation to stay with his unit, and continued to brave enemy fire to rescue, treat, and defend wounded Americans.”
Now 71 and living in South Haven, Michigan, McCloughan last month said the battle was “the worst two days of my life.”
“I was tending to two guys and dragging them at the same time into a trench line,” he told The Associated Press.
The former combat medic said his bloody wound looked was so bad that a captain suggested that he leave the battlefield and seek treatment.
“He knew me enough to know that I wasn’t going,” he said.
McCloughlan stuck it out until the battle ended, coming to the aid of his men and fighting the enemy — even knocking out an enemy RPG position with a grenade at one point.
The Pentagon has credited McCloughan with saving the lives of 10 members of his company.
McCloughan was a four-sport varsity athlete at Bangor High School in Michigan before attending Olivet College, where he earned a degree in sociology and a teaching certificate in 1968.
He accepted a teaching and coaching position with South Haven public schools but was drafted three months later, according to the US Army.
After completing boot camp and advanced training, McCloughan was shipped off to Vietnam, where he was assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade.
McCloughan left the Army in March 1970 and returned to school, earning a master’s degree in counseling and psychology from Western Michigan University two years later.
He taught psychology and sociology, and coached football, baseball and wrestling at South Haven High School until his retirement in 2008.
In 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter recommended him for the Medal of Honor, but since the medal must be awarded within five years of the recipient’s actions, Congress needed to pass a bill waiving the time limit.
President Obama signed the measure in late 2016, but he didn’t get the opportunity to recognize McCloughan with the medal before his term ended this year.
“President Donald Trump will be putting that on me for the first time in his experience of doing such a thing,” McCloughan said. “That’s pretty special.”
The Medal of Honor is given to service members who distinguish themselves by going above and beyond the call of duty in battle.
The ceremony at the White House will begin at 3 p.m. Monday.