The Pentagon has announced that President Donald Trump will award the Congressional Medal of Honor to former Army Specialist and Vietnam Veteran James C. McCloughan in a ceremony on July 31st.
According to news release provided by the Pentagon, McCloughan will receive the prestigious award for “distinguished actions during 48 hours of close-combat fighting against enemy forces near Don Que, Vietnam, from May 13 to 15, 1969.”
McCloughan was serving with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Infantry Brigade, American Division, as a private first class combat medic, according to a White House statement. During a grueling battle that lasted two days, the then 23-year-old McCloughan “voluntarily risked his life on nine separate occasions to rescue wounded and disoriented comrades.” He is credited with single-handedly saving at least ten of his fellow soldiers.
McCloughan was wounded on more than one occasion throughout his heroic effort, including injuries sustained from shrapnel and small arms fire on at least three occasions, but each time he refused medical evacuation in order remain with his unit in harm’s way. Despite his injuries, McCloughan continued to brave enemy fire in order to rescue, treat, and defend other wounded American soldiers.
“I got shot right here in the arm with an AK-47 and I actually stitched that,” he said, pointing to the scar. “I didn’t do too bad.”
Sen. Gary Peters, one of the lawmakers that sponsored the bill that waived the timeline requirement to award the Medal of honor, said that McCloughan “acted without regard to his own safety to treat and rescue his fellow service members in the heat of battle.”
McCloughan explained that he refused medical evacuation because the only other medic in his unit had already been killed, and he knew leaving the battle would result in more of his fellow soldiers dying.
“I knew that they were going to need me,” he said. “I wasn’t going to leave my men. Nope. I thought that would be my last day on Earth, though.”
McCloughan was drafted into the Vietnam War after completing a bachelor’s degree and earning his teaching certificate from Olivet College. Upon returning home after the war, he devoted the following forty years to teaching and coaching sports at South Haven High School in Michigan before retiring. He also went on to earn a master’s degree in counseling and psychology in 1972 from Western Michigan University.
Among the many accolades McCloughan has earned since his service are a number of awards for his efforts as a coach of various sports, including football and wrestling. McCloughan has been inducted into 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 for his incredible efforts.
McCloughan’s other awards he received in service include a Bronze Star Medal with “V” device for Valor and Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster. In both cases, the Oak Leaf Cluster on the medals indicate subsequent awards of the same honor for separate incidents.
Despite McCloughan’s selflessness on the battlefield and the schoolyard, he refuses to accept the moniker “hero.”
“I’m not a hero,” McCloughan said. “I just did my job. I’m not a hero. There’s a bunch of heroes there, a bunch of heroes. You know, any veteran will tell you the real heroes, they’re not here with us.”
You can read the Army’s full account of the two-day battle and McCloughan’s heroic deeds here.
Images courtesy of the U.S. Army
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