An Army medic who “ran into danger” to save wounded soldiers during a Vietnam War battle despite his own serious wounds on 31 July 2017 became the first Medal of Honor recipient under President Donald Trump, 48 years after the selfless acts for which James McCloughan is now nationally recognized. McCloughan mouthed “thank you” as Trump placed the distinctive blue ribbon holding the medal around the neck of the former Army private first class. As the president and commander in chief shook McCloughan’s hand, Trump said “very proud of you” before he pulled the retired soldier into an embrace.
McCloughan said in a brief statement on the White House driveway after the ceremony that it was “humbling” to receive the medal. Now 71, he pledged to do his best to represent the men who fought alongside him “as the caretaker of this symbol of courage and action beyond the call of duty.” Drafted into the Army, McCloughan was a 23-year-old private first class and medic who in 1969 found himself in the middle of the raging Battle of Nui Yon Hill. McCloughan willingly entered the “kill zone” to rescue injured comrades despite his serious wounds from shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade.
In announcing the honor last month, the White House said McCloughan “voluntarily risked his life on nine separate occasions to rescue wounded and disoriented comrades. 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.” In 2016, Defense Secretary Ash Carter recommended McCloughan 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 Barack Obama signed the measure in late 2016, but he didn’t get the opportunity to recognize McCloughan with the medal before his term ended this year.