(WASHINGTON) — Just months after James McCloughan was deployed to Vietnam, his courageous actions over two days of close-combat would earn him the nation’s most prestigious military award.
Within a year of accepting work as a coach and teacher at a Michigan high school, McCloughan found himself drafted into the Army, sent to basic training and deployed to Vietnam from March 1969 to March 1970.
On a May afternoon in 1969, Spc. 5 McCloughan, then 23, was part of a squad sent to rescue a downed helicopter crew under intense enemy fire. He sprinted 100 meters through an open field, dodging the crossfire of an American and North Vietnamese firefight, to lift an injured soldier over his shoulders and run him to safety. And his day was just getting started.
Over the next 48 hours, McCloughan would risk his life to rescue fellow soldiers numerous times, taking shrapnel from two rocket-propelled grenades and being injured by small-arms fire in the process. He treated their wounds as he himself bled.
“You’re gonna need me,” McCloughan recalls saying as he refused to be extracted from battle.
The 196th Infantry Brigade lost 1,188 soldiers in Vietnam, a number that would have been undoubtedly higher if not for the lives McCloughan is credited with saving.
On Monday, McCloughan, 71, was awarded with the Medal of Honor at the White House.
Following his service, McCloughan picked up life where he left off, returning to his hometown of South Haven, Michigan, to continue teaching and coaching before retiring in 2008.
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.