WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Almost 50 years after saving his fellow soldiers, a Michigan veteran is honored as a hero. James McCloughan risked his own life during the Vietnam War. Today, President Trump presented him with the Medal of Honor at the White House.
James McCloughan says he had a job to do, so he did it.
“As you stand there and listen and you’re going step by step through that battle again, you can’t help but get emotional,” said McCloughan.
McCloughan from South Haven, Michigan, is now part of a select group of men and women to receive the nation's highest military honor. McCloughan was a combat medic and he sustained multiple injuries as he helped his fellow soldiers in need. He refused medical evacuation because his comrades remained under fire.
“Somebody gives you a job to do, you do it. You don’t try to do it as good as anybody else, just the best you can do,” said McCloughan.
High-ranking administration officials attended the ceremony, including VA Secretary David Shulkin. He says it is important to honor veterans like McCloughan, especially if they fought in controversial wars like Vietnam.
“We’ve all learned a lot from the Vietnam generation and now recognizing these heroes the way that they need to be recognized is part of correcting the past,” said McCloughan.
Usually Medals of Honor have to be awarded within five years of the heroic action. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Michigan’s Senators had to pass legislation to waive the requirement.
“These things don’t happen every day. They don’t happen every couple of months. This was a tribute to a really strong case,” said Upton.
It was a day McCloughan will not soon forget, just like he won’t forget those days in 1969 on Nui Yon Hill. He says he is grateful for the medal that now lays around his neck, but McCloughan says knowing 10 men are alive because of him is the most rewarding of all.
“What could be greater than to be able to look in the eye of someone you know has lived almost 50 years after that battle because of your action and the action of the other men around you,” said McCloughan.
He will attend a ceremony at the Pentagon Tuesday before he heads back to even more festivities in southwest Michigan