President Trump awarded his first Medal of Honor on Monday to 71-year-old James McCloughan, a former army medic who served during the Vietnam War. At a Monday ceremony at the White House, McCloughan accepted the military’s highest honor for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” during a bloody, 48-hour battle in 1969. He joins a group of more than 3,500 U.S. service members who have received the award since its inception in 1861.
As a 23-year-old private first class combat medic in the U.S. Army, McCloughan fought in the Battle for Nui Yon Hill, where he willingly entered the “kill zone” to rescue ten wounded men—a few of whom were present at Monday’s ceremony. Although he suffered from his own serious injuries after being hit with shrapnel from a grenade, McCloughan is credited with risking his life on nine separate occasions to pull the men to safety. A White House statement adds that McCloughan refused evacuation and medical attention in order to stay with his unit, quoting him as saying: “I would have rather died on the battlefield than know that men died because they did not have a medic.”
Following the war, McCloughan returned home to South Haven, Michigan, where he taught psychology, sociology, and geography at a local high school, in addition to coaching football, wrestling, and baseball. Over the course of his coaching career, McCloughan was inducted into the Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Olivet College Athletic Hall of Fame. He is now retired after serving nearly 40 years as an educator.