President Donald Trump awarded the nation’s highest military honor Monday to a Vietnam War veteran who saved wounded soldiers from a kill zone despite his own serious injuries.
Army medic James McCloughan, a 71-year-old from South Haven, Mich., received the Medal of Honor for actions in combat. McCloughan’s recognition, which took place at a White House ceremony, is Trump’s first time presenting the award.
McCloughan found himself in the two-day long Battle of Hui Yon Hill in Vietnam in 1969 when he was a private first class at 23 years old.
Officials say McCloughan willingly entered the “kill zone” to rescue 10 wounded and disoriented comrades despite his own serious injuries caused by shrapnel from a rock-propelled grenade.
The White House last month 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.”
McCloughan recalled his shrapnel injuries as “a real bad sting” and said, “I was tending to two guys and dragging them at the same time into a trench line.”
The retired medic said he looked down, saw himself covered in blood with a wound so bad it prompted a captain to suggest that he leave the battlefield to seek treatment.
“He knew me enough to know that I wasn’t going,” McCloughan said of the captain.