WMU honors alumnus, Medal of Honor recipient at Bronco football game

Contact: Paula M. Davis
President Donald Trump drapes WMU alumnus James McCloughan with the Medal of Honor at the White House.

President Donald Trump drapes McCloughan with the Medal of Honor at the White House July 31, 2017 (U.S. Army photo by Eboni Everson-Myart).

Kalamazoo, Mich.—For his life-saving acts of bravery as a U.S. Army medic during the Vietnam War, Western Michigan University graduate James C. "Doc" McCloughan has been awarded the Medal of Honor.

The retired teacher and coach was conferred America's highest military honor on July 31, following the decadeslong lobbying efforts of his fellow servicemen.

McCloughan's many feats of bravery occurred about three years before he earned a master's degree in counseling education/counseling psychology from WMU.

Ahead of Veterans Day and during Salute to Heroes night at Waldo Stadium Nov. 8, WMU President Edward Montgomery and Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard formally recognized McCloughan after the first quarter of the Bronco football team's game against Kent State. The Broncos prevailed over the Golden Flashes in a 48-20 victory, making them bowl eligible.

James McCloughan stands on the field at Waldo Stadium chatting with Army ROTC cadets.

McCloughan was presented with a bronze Bronco during Salute to Heroes night at Waldo Stadium.

Montgomery presented McCloughan with a bronze Bronco statue and thanked him for his service.

Months earlier, President Donald Trump bestowed the Medal of Honor during a White House ceremony and recounted McCloughan's extraordinary efforts to successfully rescue and treat his fellow soldiers in Vietnam.

Trump said the former Army medic repeatedly "ran into danger" in spite of his own grisly injuries during a battle almost 50 years ago.

Trump's retelling of the events, in part:

"On May 13, 1969, less than three months after he arrived, Jim was one of 89 men in Charlie Company to embark on a mission to secure a transportation route near Nui Yon. As Jim and his men jumped out of the helicopter, it quickly became clear that they were surrounded by enemy troops. Within minutes, two choppers were shot down, and one of his men was badly wounded in the middle of an open field.

"Jim did not hesitate. He blazed through 100 meters of enemy fire to carry the wounded and the soldier to safety. But this was only the first of many heroic deeds Jim would perform over the next 48 hours.

"After tending to the first wounded soldier, Jim joined a mission to advance toward the enemy, and advance they did. Before long, they were ambushed. Again, he ran into danger to rescue his men. As he cared for two soldiers, shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade slashed open the back of Jim’s body from head to foot.

"Yet that terrible wound didn’t stop Jim from pulling those two men to safety, nor did it stop him from answering the plea of another wounded comrade and carrying him to safety atop his own badly injured body," Trump recounted to the audience gathered at the White House.

As night fell, all except one soldier made it to the company's night defensive position.

"Again, 'Doc' did not hesitate," Trump explained.

"He crawled through a rice paddy thick with steel rain—that means bullets all over the place. As soldiers watched him, they were sure that was the last time they would see 'Doc.'"

Photo of a young James McCloughan in fatigues in front of the Vietnam Regional Exchange Snack Shop.

McCloughan in front of the Vietnam Regional Exchange Snack Shop in 1969. (Photo courtesy of McCloughan)

But McCloughan carried the soldier to safety, tended his wounds and lifted him to a medevac helicopter. Though his lieutenant ordered him aboard, McCloughan refused.

"He said, 'You're going to need me here.' As Jim now says, 'I would have rather died on the battlefield than know that men died because they did not have a medic.' …

Ultimately, McCloughan rescued 10 soldiers and tended to countless others. He was one of 32 men who fought until the end.

"They held their ground against more than 2,000 enemy troops," the president said.

His feelings the moment Trump draped him with the long-in-coming medal were hard to describe, McCloughan told a television reporter.

"I can tell you, I was amongst a lot of heroes in that 48 hours. … I'm proud for everyone (who was) involved in it. I hope that I can live up to what this medal represents."

Learn more about McCloughan's remarkable story at army.mil/medalofhonor/mccloughan.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.