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Trump presents first Medal of Honor to Vietnam vet

President Trump presented his first Medal of Honor as commander-in-chief Monday to a 71-year-old Vietnam vet who risked his life nine times to save comrades as an Army medic and was badly injured.

“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, Trump said at a White House ceremony for James McCloughan.

In attendance were 10 of McCloughan’s former fellow soldiers, five of whom he rescued in a bloody 48-hour stretch during the Battle of Hui Yon Hill in March 1969.

With the uniformed Michigan native at his side, Trump recounted the former combat medic’s heroism in the face of withering fire as he entered the “kill zone.”

“He blazed through 10 meters of enemy fire to carry the wounded soldiers to safety,” Trump said.

During a separate incident, McCloughan rushed to the aid of members of his ambushed unit but was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, which tore open a head-to-foot wound.

Despite the grave injury, “doc” — as he was known in his unit — carried a wounded man on top of his own ravaged body, the president said.

“Doc did not hesitate. He crawled through a rice paddy thick with steel rain – that means bullets,” he said. “They thought that was the end of their friend, Jim. But after several minutes, Jim emerged from the smoke and fire carrying yet another soldier.”

He refused a captain’s order to leave the battlefield to seek treatment for his own wounds – then held a blinking light in an open area at night for a resupply air drop.

“He said, ‘You’re going to need me here,’” Trump said. “As Jim says, ‘I would have rather died on the battlefield than known that men died because they did not have a medic.’”

He also destroyed a North Vietnamese position with a grenade.

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 and was shipped off to Vietnam.

“I got initiated the very first day,” McCloughan recalled recently, the Washington Post reported. “We hit our first ambush. We had a man die. Had a few people to patch up. And I shot a man. That’s a lot to digest in your first day.

“But I didn’t know I was going to face anything like Tam Ky,” he added, referring to the location of the fateful battle by members of his Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade.

McCloughan left the Army in March 1970 and returned to Michigan, where he earned a master’s in counseling and psychology from Western Michigan University.

He taught psychology and sociology, and coached football, baseball and wrestling at South Haven High School until retiring 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 chance to present him with the medal before his term ended this year.

Reflecting on his experience 48 years later, McCloughan said he was nervous when he found out that he would be sent to Vietnam almost immediately after basic training.

Eventually, he said: “I got into the right frame of mind that I will serve my country. I didn’t volunteer to do it, but they’ve asked me, so that’s what I’ll do.”

Source: http://nypost.com/2017/07/31/trump-presents-first-medal-of-honor-to-vietnam-vet/

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