01:42 AM CST on Friday, January 23, 2004
By GARY REAVES / WFAA-TV
The word hero gets used a lot these days, but very few earn the nation's highest award: the Congressional Medal of Honor.
One winner of this prestigious honor is now recovering in the Dallas Veter- ans' Administration Hospital. The story of how he got there is a tribute to a North Texas man that this veteran believes is also a true hero.
Former Marine Pvt. Raymond Michael Clausen prefers to be called "Mike."
"Everytime they called me Raymond, I was in trouble," he said, smiling. "The only one to call me Raymond - and I wasn't in trouble - was President Nixon."
That was the day Clausen received the Congressional Medal of Honor for risking his life in Vietnam. He saved an entire platoon that was trapped, under fire, in a mine field.
"The pilot kept telling me, 'no, no, you stay on this aircraft, everybody stay on this aircraft, nobody get off this aircraft,' but I was already gone," Clausen said. "I said 'to hell with it ... we've got to get these guys out.'"
Clausen was crew chief on a CH-46 helicopter. On the ground, 20 Marines were surrounded - 11 of them already wounded. Clausen repeatedly left the safety of the chopper to get them home alive.
"I ran over there (and) picked up the guys that couldn't walk," Clausen said. "The ones that could walk were under the assumption I knew where the mines were, obviously, and they followed every footstep I made back to the helicopter."
Clausen never much like being called a hero, but he said over time he got used to it. In his mind, however, the real hero is Ross Perot - the man, he says, who saved his life.
Perot's legendary efforts on behalf of veterans have taken him to Vietnam and beyond. When Dallas held a parade for veterans of the first Gulf War, Perot flew in Medal of Honor winners, including Clausen. Now, however, Clausen suffers from Hepatitis C and Diabetes, which he said he got from Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Somehow, Perot heard that Clausen was getting inadequate care at his home near New Orleans.
"A couple of days later, (Perot) called me and said he was sending his plane to pick me up at the Hammond Airport," Clausen said.
At Dallas' Zale Lipshy Hospital, doctors did dozens of tests and a skin graft. Now, Clausen is recuperating at the Veterans' Administration Hospital.
Perot asked News 8 not to focus this story on him, but on Claussen, saying "what I did for him is insignificant compared to what he did for us."
So did Clausen do it because he wanted to be brave, or a hero?
"No," he said firmly. "I did it because there were troops out in the field that needed help getting out - brother Marines, if you want to call them that. We were all the same, all brothers."
And thanks to a friend, Clausen is one more brother who'll go home alive.
Raymond M. Clausen's History Index
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