Utahn awarded Purple Heart for actions in Afghanistan

Posted at 8:37 PM, Mar 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-21 08:03:08-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Specialist James McCloy of West Jordan received one of the military's highest honors on Thursday - a Purple Heart - awarded only to those wounded in combat.

“It’s very emotional for me, and I didn't think it would affect me like this, and there's been a couple tears this morning--kind of like closure, almost like closure, that it's all pretty much over,” McCloy said.

McCloy was surrounded by family, friends and fellow soldiers when Congressman Chris Stewart, a military veteran, presented the award. It was three years ago when McCloy survived a near-death experience on one of the most dangerous roads in Afghanistan when his vehicle ran over a road bomb.

“The blast took the vehicle from the windshield forward and sent us about 90 feet down the road and the rest of the vehicle landed up on the back end pointed up at the sky like a rocket,” McCloy said.

McCloy, along with three other men in the 45,000-pound vehicle, were knocked unconscious

“The next thing I remember I was waking up hanging from my straps hanging in the truck,” McCloy said.

McCloy said he cut himself loose and then began working to get the other men, all severely injured, to safety.

“We were taking pretty heavy fire, our forces,” McCloy said. “We were engaging, and the enemy forces, it was a pretty bad scene.”

All of the men survived and credit McCloy for rescuing them. The Purple Heart is the oldest military award still given, and McCoy’s fellow soldiers said it's well deserved.

"I'm really excited for him,” said Nathan Young—McCloy’s Platoon Sgt. "I've known James for a really long time. It’s good to see that he is recognized for the things he did that day.”

McCloy’s shoulder and knees were severely injured. He also experienced minor brain trauma and is still receiving treatment for his injuries. He now serves as a board member of “Thank a Hero,” which works to help wounded soldiers.