James McCloughan, Medal of Honor recipient, tells his story

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. — President Trump on Monday awarded the nation’s highest military honor to 70-year-old James McCloughan.

Back in 1969, at the age of 23, McCloughan served in Vietnam, where he repeatedly risked his life to save wounded comrades

In one photo, Pfc. McCloughan — after 48 hours of battle — holds an AK-47 taken from a North Vietnamese soldier he killed.

“The worst 48 hours of my life, and I’m getting an award for it,” McCloughan said.

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Forty-eight years later, he received the Medal of Honor for his actions at a place called Nui Yon Hill.

“I knew we were in trouble immediately,” he said, “you’re going to have some casualties.”

An all-around athlete in college, McCloughan had been drafted and sent to Vietnam as a combat medic.

“I held 18, 19, or 20-year-old men in my arms, and I heard their last words, and I saw them take their last breath,” he said.

Thirteen Americans lost their lives at Nui Yon Hill, but McCloughan saved 10 men. It began with a 75-yard dash across open ground to a soldier who had just gone down.

“I went through the crossfire, slid in next to him like I’m sliding into second base, and I said, ‘are you hit?'”

McCloughan said no one told him to get the wounded soldier.

“I saw him go down, and I jumped up, and went and got him. That’s my job,” he said.

When he ran into the crossfire, McCloughan said he wasn’t thinking of losing his own life.

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“That’s secondary. Primary is getting him safely back into the perimeter,” McCloughan said.

By the end of the first day, McCloughan was hit by shrapnel. His commander told him to get on a medevac helicopter with the rest of the wounded.

“I said, ‘I’m not going.’ And he said, ‘Why not?’ I looked him dead in the face and I said, ‘You’re gonna need me,'” McCloughan said, recalling the conversation.

Awarded the Bronze Star, McCloughan came home to South Haven, Michigan, a local hero, leading the Memorial Day parade each year. But he almost never talked about the battle.

“I told my father, who is also my best friend, and I told my uncle Jack what had happened, and then I put it aside — done with,” he admitted.

But the soldiers who had fought with him weren’t done.

President Trump presents the Medal of Honor to former Army Specialist James McCloughan on Mon., July 31, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

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