“They called me ‘Doc,’” Vietnam War veteran and Army medic James McCloughan said of his fellow soldiers. “You know … it’s probably one of the best titles I’ve ever had.”
During the bloody, days-long battle of Hui Yon Hill in Vietnam, then Private First Class McCloughan risked his life on nine separate occasions to rescue and treat his wounded comrades despite his own shrapnel injuries from a rocket-propelled grenade.
On Monday, 48 years after the battle, McCloughan received the nation’s highest military honor — the Medal of Honor. McCloughan is the first person to receive the honor from President Trump.
McCloughan represents “America’s unbreakable spirit,” Trump said during the Monday ceremony.
“Private McCloughan carries one immortal title,” the president said. “And that title is hero.”
During the May 1969 battle, the 23-year-old McCloughan was serving in the 21st Infantry Regiment, Americal Division. The first morning of the battle May 13, 1969, McCloughan ran 100 meters through enemy fire across an open field to rescue a wounded soldier. Later that day, he leaped out of a trench to tend to two of his comrades. While McCloughan was examining them, he was hit with shrapnel and started bleeding extensively, but he managed to pull the two men back to the trench.
When medical evacuation helicopters arrived to take wounded soldiers off the field. McCloughan, one of two medics, refused to leave, ignoring orders from his platoon leader.
“You’re going to need me,” McCloughan told him. The other medic, Dan Shea, died the next day, and McCloughan became the unit’s sole medic. He stayed with his company until the fight ended the morning of May 15, continuing to treat casualties while firing back at the enemy.
The Pentagon credited McCloughan with saving the lives of ten members of his company. Looking back decades later, McCloughan called the battle “the worst two days of my life.”
A few months after the battle, McCloughan received orders to transfer to the main hospital in Chu Lai, Vietnam. Decades later, a visibly emotional McCloughan recalled the moment he spoke to his boss about the transfer. “I knew I was going to safety, but I was also leaving my men, and I was their medic,” McCloughan said. “They were glad I was getting out of the field, but they, they didn’t want to lose me as their medic.”
For the last five months of his tour, McCloughan served as the liaison for Americal Division, and was discharged…