Late last year, former Spc. Jim McCloughan was close enough to taste it. After then-President Obama signed a provision included in the annual defense authorization bill, McCloughan was cleared to receive the Medal of Honor.
But the White House was in the midst of a transition to the Trump administration, and so McCloughan's award fell by the wayside for several months, until it could be signed by the acting Army secretary and the new president.
Then, on May 25, he got the call, McCloughan told Army Times in a Thursday interview. He was told to be by the phone the following Tuesday afternoon.
" ‘I have the president of the United States on the other line.’ " he recalled the Army captain on the other line saying. "I said, ‘Can my wife pick up another phone?' "
He will receive the award on July 31, according to a White House press release.
This 1969 photo provided by James McCloughan shows him with the former Army medic, right, with a platoon interpreter in Nui Yon Hill in Vietnam. An Army spokeswoman said Tuesday, June 13, 2017, that McCloughan, who saved the lives of 10 soldiers during the Battle of Nui Yon Hill in May 1969 in Vietnam, will become the first person to be awarded the nation's highest military honor by President Donald Trump.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of James McCloughan via AP
McCloughan, 71, had been waiting for the call for six months, but the event was a decade in the making, since family started reaching out to his local Michigan lawmakers about putting McCloughan in for the Distinguished Service Cross, to recognize him for his bravery as a combat medic in Vietnam back in 1969.
"When the squad and crew members reached the company perimeter, a wounded soldier was laying on the ground, too injured to move," according to the official award narrative. "McCloughan ran 100 meters in an open field through the crossfire of his company and the charging, platoon-sized North Vietnamese Army. Upon reaching the wounded soldier, Pfc. McCloughan shouldered him and raced back to the company, saving him from being captured or killed."
In a photo from Friday, June 9, 2017, in South Haven, Mich., former Army medic James McCloughan shows photos of himself and fellow soldiers in Vietnam. An Army spokeswoman said Tuesday, June 13 that McCloughan, who saved the lives of 10 soldiers during the Battle of Nui Yon Hill in May 1969 in Vietnam, will become the first person to be awarded the nation's highest military honor by President Donald Trump.
Photo Credit: Carlos Osorio/AP
McCloughan was 23 years-old and assigned to C Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment during the Battle of Nui Yon Hill, a gruesome two-day battle that left dozens killed, wounded or missing in action.
Then-Pfc. McCloughan was originally put in for the DSC after the May 1969 battle, but had the award downgraded to a Bronze Star with "V" device, he told Army Times.
His former platoon leader revived the nomination in 2009, he said, and former Defense Secretary Ash Carter saw fit to upgrade it to a Medal of Honor.
But per regulation, the military's highest award for valor must be awarded within five years of the action. Michigan lawmakers Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Sen. Gary Peters and Rep. Fred Upton got the exception written into legislation and passed in December.
"This medal is all about love," McCloughan said. "It’s a love story so deep in my soul that’s it’s truly immeasurable."
Former Spc. Jim Cloughan will receive the Medal of Honor on July 31, the first to be awarded by President Trump.
Photo Credit: Army
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT