President Donald Trump awarded his first Medal of Honor on July 31 to former Specialist Five James C. McCloughan for conspicuous gallantry during the Vietnam War.
Prior to placing the time-honored heroes medal around the veteran’s neck, President Trump told riveting tales of the man’s bravery while serving his country as a medic during the Vietnam War at the tender age of 23.
McCloughan, now 69, was honored specifically for his actions during 48 hours of close-combat fighting against enemy forces near Don Que, Vietnam, from May 13 to 15, 1969. McCloughan voluntarily risked his life on nine separate occasions to rescue wounded and disoriented comrades. He sustained serious wounds from shrapnel and small arms fire on three separate occasions, yet continually refused medical evacuation to stay with his unit and brave enemy fire to rescue, treat, and defend his fellow soldiers.
Standing next to the president in the East Room of the White House, McCloughan’s family and friends looked on as he received the medal for his incredible bravery while in battle.
“Today, we pay tribute to a veteran who went above and beyond the call of duty to protect our comrades, our country, and our freedom,” said President Trump. “…we are in awe of your actions and your bravery.”
McCloughan was drafted into the Army after graduating from Olivet College with a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and a teaching certificate. After Vietnam, McCloughan returned home and spent nearly 40 years teaching and coaching sports at South Haven High School in Michigan. McCloughan taught psychology, sociology, and geography and coached football, wrestling, and baseball. He also earned a Master of Arts in counseling and psychology in 1972 from Western Michigan University.
McCloughan is a member of the Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Michigan High School Football Association Coaches Hall of Fame, the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and the Olivet College Athletic Hall of Fame. He is married to Chérie McCloughan and has two sons, Jamie and Matt, one daughter, Kami, and one stepdaughter, Kara.
The Medal of Honor is awarded to a person who, as a member of the Armed Forces, distinguishes themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States, engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
“For over two centuries, our brave men and women in uniform have overcome tyranny, fascism, communism, and every threat to our freedom — every single threat they’ve overcome. And we’ve overcome these threats because of titans like Jim whose spirit could never be conquered,” said the president before he launched into an incredible tale of the soldier’s courageous efforts to care for others even as he himself was suffering.
Here is the story President Trump told of America’s newest Medal of Honor recipient:
Jim was raised in Bangor, Michigan. His father built their house from scratch and worked 40 years at a piano factory. Jim’s dad taught him a simple but powerful lesson: Never do anything halfway. Always do your best. Jim took that lesson very much to heart. He played for four varsity sports in high school and three in college.
In August of 1968, Jim was drafted into the Army. Within six months, he was trained as a medic and arrived in Vietnam. Right away, Jim poured all of himself into his duties treating the sick and the wounded. Before long, all his fellow soldiers called him ‘Doc.’
On May 13, 1969, less than three months after he arrived, Jim was one of 89 men in Charlie Company to embark on a mission to secure a transportation route near Nui Yon. As Jim and his men jumped out of the helicopter, it quickly became clear that they were surrounded by enemy troops. Within minutes, two choppers were shot down, and one of his men was badly wounded in the middle of an open field.
Jim did not hesitate. He blazed through 100 meters of enemy fire to carry the wounded and the soldier to safety. But this was only the first of many heroic deeds Jim would perform over the next 48 hours.
After tending to the first wounded soldier, Jim joined a mission to advance toward the enemy, and advance they did. Before long, they were ambushed. Again, he ran into danger to rescue his men. As he cared for two soldiers, shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade slashed open the back of Jim’s body from head to foot.
Yet that terrible wound didn’t stop Jim from pulling those two men to safety, nor did it stop him from answering the plea of another wounded comrade and carrying him to safety atop his own badly injured body. He was badly injured.
And so it went, shot after shot, blast upon blast. As one of his comrades recalled, whoever called “medic” could immediately count on McCloughan. He’s a brave guy.
As day turned to dusk, nearly all of those who could and really, really had to make it back — they were finally within their night defensive position, except for one soldier whose plea Jim could not ignore.
Again, “Doc” did not hesitate. He crawled through a rice paddy thick with steel rain. That means bullets all over the place. As soldiers watched him, they were sure that was the last time they would see “Doc.” They thought that was the end of their friend, Jim.
But after several minutes passed, Jim emerged from the smoke and fire carrying yet another soldier. He immediately badgered [bandaged] and fixed and worked, but he got the wounds fixed and lifted the soldier to a medevac helicopter.
His lieutenant ordered Jim to get in, too. “Get in,” he said, “get in.” But Jim refused. He said, “You’re going to need me here.” As Jim now says, “I would have rather died on the battlefield than know that men died because they did not have a medic.”
Over the next 24 hours, Jim fired at enemy soldiers, suffered a bullet wound to his arm, and continued to race into gunfire to save more and more lives.
And yet, as night approached again, after nearly two days of no food, no water, and no rest, Jim volunteered to hold a blinking light in an open field to signal for a supply drop. He would not yield, he would not rest, he would not stop, and he would not flinch in the face of sure death and definite danger.
Though he was thousands of miles from home, it was as if the strength and pride of our whole nation was beating inside of Jim’s heart. Jim did what his father had taught him — he gave it his all and then he just kept giving.
In those 48 hours, Jim rescued 10 American soldiers and tended to countless others. He was one of 32 men who fought until the end. They held their ground against more than 2,000 enemy troops.
Jim, I know I speak for every person here when I say that we are in awe of your actions and your bravery. But let me tell you one thing, and one more story about Jim. On the second day of that bloody fight, Jim found a few soldiers and a fellow soldier who had been shot badly in the stomach. He knew the soldier wouldn’t make it if he flung him on the back, so he lifted him up and carried him in his arms.
As Jim was carrying the soldier, a thought flashed through his mind. Although Jim had always been very close to his father, he realized that it was not since he had been a young boy that he had told his dad those three very simple but beautiful words: ‘I love you.’
In that moment, Jim offered up a prayer. He asked God, ‘If you get me out of this hell on Earth so I can tell my dad I love him, I’ll be the best coach and the best father you could ever ask for.’ As he prayed, a great peace came over him. And if it was God’s will for him to live, he’d keep his promise to God as soon as he had the chance.
Jim made it out of that hell on Earth. He made it; here he is. And the first thing he did when he arrived back on American soil was to say those beautiful words: ‘I love you, Dad. I love you.’ Jim said those words over and over again for the next 22 years until the last time he saw his father, the night before his dad passed on.
Today, I’d venture to say his dad is the proudest father in heaven. Jim fought with all of the love and courage in his soul. He was prepared to lay down his life so his brothers-in-arms could live theirs.
The powerful video (both Twitter and YouTube) can be viewed below:
It was my great honor to pay tribute to a VET who went above & beyond the call of duty to PROTECT our COMRADES, our COUNTRY, & OUR FREEDOM! pic.twitter.com/YS6y1WR30G
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2017