Viet­nam vet Trump’s 1st Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ent

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY MIKE HOUSE­HOLDER

SOUTH HAVEN, MICH. | Mem­bers of Army medic James McCloughan’s unit in Viet­nam called him “Doc.”

Now, those sol­diers, sev­eral of whom Mr. McCloughan saved dur­ing the fe­ro­cious, days­long Bat­tle of Nui Yon Hill in 1969, will have a new name for him: Medal of Honor re­cip­i­ent.

Army spokes­woman Va­lerie L. Mon­gello said Tues­day that the 71-year-old from South Haven, Michi­gan, will be­come the first per­son to be awarded the na­tion’s high­est mil­i­tary honor by Pres­i­dent Trump.

“I feel hon­ored to be able to ac­cept this for the 89 men that fought that bat­tle,” Mr. McCloughan said, ref­er­enc­ing the num­ber of Amer­i­can com­bat­ants, dozens of whom were killed, wounded or went miss­ing dur­ing the 48 hours of fight­ing against hun­dreds of North Viet­namese and Viet Cong.

Then a 23-year-old pri­vate first class who was drafted a year ear­lier af­ter earn­ing a de­gree in so­ci­ol­ogy from Olivet Col­lege, Mr. McCloughan re­peat­edly en­tered the “kill zone” to res­cue wounded com­rades de­spite be­ing pelted with shrap­nel from a rocket-pro­pelled grenade.

Mr. McCloughan “vol­un­tar­ily risked his life on nine sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions to res­cue wounded and dis­ori­ented com­rades,” the White House said in an emailed state­ment Tues­day. “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.”

Mr. McCloughan de­scribed the shrap­nel as “a real bad sting” dur­ing an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press at his South Haven home, not far from Lake Michi­gan. “But at that par­tic­u­lar time, I was tend­ing to two guys and drag­ging them at the same time into a trench line.

“I looked down, and I was cov­ered with blood,” Mr. McCloughan said of the wound that prompted a cap­tain to sug­gest he leave the bat­tle­field to re­ceive aid.

Mr. McCloughan had dif­fer­ent ideas. “He knew me enough to know that I wasn’t go­ing, and he bet­ter lis­ten to me.” He did.

Mr. McCloughan stuck around un­til the bat­tle’s con­clu­sion, com­ing to the aid of his men and fight­ing the en­emy, at one point knock­ing out an en­emy RPG po­si­tion with a grenade.

In all, the Pen­tagon cred­its Mr. McCloughan with sav­ing the lives of 10 mem­bers of his com­pany.

Mr. McCloughan called the bat­tle “the worst two days of my life.”

The Medal of Honor is awarded to mem­bers of the Armed Forces who dis­tin­guish 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.

Mr. McCloughan al­ready has earned a slew of other awards, in­clud­ing the Com­bat Med­i­cal Badge, two Bronze Stars, the U.S. Army Valor­ous Unit Ci­ta­tion and the Na­tional De­fense Medal. He also earned two Pur­ple Hearts, hav­ing been shot in the arm in ad­di­tion to tak­ing the RPG shrap­nel.

Mr. McCloughan left the Army in 1970, and for the next four decades he taught psy­chol­ogy and so­ci­ol­ogy and coached foot­ball, base­ball and wrestling at South Haven High School be­fore re­tir­ing in 2008.

Then-Sec­re­tary of De­fense Ash­ton Carter rec­om­mended Mr. McCloughan for the Medal of Honor last year. There was a prob­lem, how­ever: The medal needs to be awarded within five years of the re­cip­i­ent’s heroic ac­tions. But Congress can waive the time limit, which is what hap­pened in Mr. McCloughan’s case.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

James McCloughan, 71, was 23 when he saved the lives of 10 sol­diers in Bat­tle of Nui Yon Hill in Viet­nam. He will be the first per­son awarded the Medal of Honor by Pres­i­dent Trump.

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