WASHINGTON -- This year, the only two Medal of Honor recipients were both Army veterans, who were receiving the medals for courageous, sacrificial actions in combat during the Vietnam War. Here are the stories of Spc. Five James McCloughan and Capt. Gary M. Rose, presented again to commemorate their courageous, sacrificial actions that earned them the highest military honor in the land.
JAMES C. MCCLOUGHAN
On July 31, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to former to former Spc. 5 James McCloughan during a White House ceremony July 31, for gallant actions in the Vietnam War.
McCloughan, a medic, was one of 89 Soldiers in Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division who fought on Nui Yon Hill, near the city of Tam Kỳ, from May 13 to 15, 1969.
Within minutes of landing there on May 13, about 2,000 enemy soldiers had the unit surrounded and two of the unit's helicopters were shot down, Trump related during the ceremony. Seeing a badly wounded Soldier lying in an open field, McCloughan blazed through 100 meters of enemy fire to carry the Soldier to safety.
When North Vietnamese forces ambushed the unit a short time later, McCloughan again rushed into danger to rescue his wounded men. As he cared for two Soldiers, shrapnel from an enemy 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. And so it went, shot after shot, blast upon blast," the president said.
As the darkness of night approached, McCloughan continued to crawl through rice paddies, dodging bullets, to rescue wounded Soldiers and bring them to a medevac helicopter. When McCloughan's lieutenant, seeing the extent of the medic's own injuries, ordered him to get into the medevac as well, McCloughan refused, saying "You're going to need me here."
McCloughan would later say, "I'd rather die on the battlefield than know that men died because they did not have a medic," Trump related.
Over the next 24 hours, without food, water or rest, McCloughan fired at enemy soldiers, suffered a bullet wound to his arm and continued to race into gunfire to save more lives, the president said.
"Though he was thousands of miles from home, it was as if the strength and pride of our whole nation was beating inside of Jim's heart," the president said. "He gave it his all and then he just kept giving."
In those 48 hours, Jim rescued 10 American Soldiers and tended to countless others, Trump said, adding that of the 89 in the company, their strength had dwindled to 32 by the end of the fighting.
Following the war, McCloughan taught sociology and psychology at South Haven High School in Michigan, and coached football, baseball, and wrestling for 38 years.
McCloughan was joined at the White House ceremony by members of his family, eight other Medal of Honor recipients, and 10 Soldiers who served with him during that epic battle, five of whom McCloughan personally saved.
CAPT. GARY MICHAEL ROSE
More than 47 years after his heroic actions in the nation of Laos, during the Vietnam War, Capt. Gary Michael "Mike" Rose was recognized with the Medal of Honor by President Trump at the White House on Oct. 23.
During the Vietnam War, Rose served as a combat medic with the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, part of Special Forces. He was recognized for actions during a four-day period that spanned Sept. 11 through 14, 1970, in Laos. The mission he was part of, called "Operation Tailwind," had for many years been classified.
Operation Tailwind was meant to prevent the North Vietnamese Army from funneling weapons to their own forces through Laos, along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The operation inserted 136 men by helicopter, including 16 American Soldiers, deep inside Laos.
"Once they landed in the clearing, they rushed to the jungle for much needed cover," Trump said. "Soon, another man was shot outside their defensive perimeter. Mike immediately rushed to his injured comrade, firing at the enemy as he ran. In the middle of the clearing, under the machine gun fire, Mike treated the wounded Soldier. He shielded the man with his own body and carried him back to safety."
That was just the start of the four-day mission, Trump said. There was much more to come.
As the unit moved deeper and deeper through the dense jungle, dodging bullets and explosives, Rose continued to tend the wounded during the four-day mission, even at the risk of extreme danger to himself.
Rose was himself injured, Trump said. On the second day, Rose was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, which left shrapnel in his back, and a hole in his foot.
"For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch and went on rescuing the wounded," Trump said. "Mike did not stop to eat, to sleep, or even to care for his own serious injury as he saved the lives of his fellow Soldiers."
When the unit evacuated by helicopter on the fourth day, Rose's helicopter crashed due to a failed engine. After being thrown from the helicopter, Rose rushed back to the scene to pull his fellow Soldiers out of the burning wreckage.
At the conclusion of Operation Tailwind, thanks to the efforts of Mike Rose, all 16 American Soldiers were able to return home.
During those four days in Laos, "Mike treated an astounding 60 to 70 men," Trump said. And of the mission, which proved to be a success, "their company disrupted the enemy's continual resupply of weapons, saving countless of additional American lives."
In addition to members of his family, 10 of Rose's brothers-in-arms from the operation also attended the ceremony.
"To Mike and all the service members who fought in the battle: You've earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation," Trump said. "You faced down the evils of communism, you defended our flag, and you showed the world the unbreakable resolve of the American armed forces. Thank you. And thank you very much."
(Editor's Note: This article is part of a series reflecting on the top Army events of 2017. This article is a compilation of two different articles, whose links are below: "President awards Medal of Honor to former combat medic," by David Vergun, and "Medal of Honor awarded to Capt. Gary M. Rose for actions in Laos," by C. Todd Lopez.)