Trump presented the highest military honor to Gary Michael Rose, a retired US Army captain who served as a medic in the Vietnam War, saving lives while risking his own during a four-day operation despite being seriously wounded himself.
Rose is receiving the honor for repeatedly risking his life to provide medical aid to fellow soldiers throughout the operation, using his own body at one point to shield a wounded American from enemy fire and helping to load wounded comrades onto helicopters while under fire.
"This will enshrine him into the history of our nation," Trump said as he told the story of Roses heroism. "Mike, today we have a room full of people and a nation who thank God that you lived. Your will to endure, your love for your fellow soldier, your devotion to your country inspires us all."
The ceremony came as Trump remained embroiled nearly a week later in the controversy surrounding his call with the widow of a US soldier
who was killed in an ambush in Niger earlier this month.
Trump has refused to shake the controversy, tweeting criticism over the weekend of the Democratic congresswoman who first publicly criticized his call with the widow and again taking to Twitter on Monday to rebut Sgt. La David Johnson's widow's account of the call. The President's tweets came despite the White House's repeated attempts to turn the page on the controversy late last week.
Monday's solemn ceremony provided Trump an opportunity to show his respect for military veterans, hours after Johnson's widow said she was "upset and hurt" after her conversation with Trump last week.
Rose is the second person to receive the Medal of Honor since Trump became president. The previous honoree, James McCloughan, was also a Vietnam War medic.
Before adorning Rose with the medal, Trump retold Rose's exploits in detail, noting at one point that Rose "used a branch as a crutch" after he was wounded and "fired at the enemy with one arm" as he rushed from one wounded comrade to the next.
Rose, the only medic for the 136 men on the mission, repeatedly put himself in the line of enemy fire to load wounded soldiers into rescue helicopters. After one helicopter crashed shortly after taking off, Rose pulled the wounded helicopter crew out and gave medical aid until another helicopter arrived to evacuate the soldiers.
"Mike, this is serious stuff," Trump remarked at one point as he read through Rose's actions.
Several soldiers in Rose's unit during the September 1970 mission were in attendance at the White House for the ceremony Monday and were also recognized by the President.
"To Mike and all of the service members who fought in the battle, you've earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation. 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," Trump said.
A White House statement before the ceremony described Rose's actions during the mission.
"From September 11 through September 14, 1970, while his unit was engaged with a much larger force deep in enemy-controlled territory, then-Sergeant Rose repeatedly ran into the line of enemy fire to provide critical medical aid to his comrades, using his own body on one occasion to shield a wounded American from harm," the White House said in a statement explaining his citation for "conspicuous gallantry."
"On the final day of the mission, although wounded himself, Sergeant Rose voluntarily exposed himself to enemy fire while moving wounded personnel to the extraction point, loading them into helicopters, and helping to repel an enemy assault on the American position. As he boarded the final extraction helicopter, intense enemy fire hit the helicopter, causing it to crash shortly after takeoff. Again, ignoring his own injuries, Sergeant Rose pulled the helicopter crew and members of his unit from the burning wreckage and provided medical aid until another extraction helicopter arrived."