James A. Taylor drove from his home in Northern California early Friday to be fitted for a nice pair of tan slacks and a spiffy navy blue blazer at Jackson's Men's Wear in Medford.

James A. Taylor drove from his home in Northern California early Friday to be fitted for a nice pair of tan slacks and a spiffy navy blue blazer at Jackson's Men's Wear in Medford.

All at no charge.

But store owner Ray Jackson will tell you the Medal of Honor recipient and retired Army major more than paid for the clothing when he put his life on the line more than 40 years ago to rescue wounded soldiers in Vietnam.

Jackson donated the $150 slacks to go with the blazer, one of 90 suit jackets being provided at no cost for all medal recipients living in the United States by the Chicago-based Hart, Schaffner & Marx clothing firm for the 2010 annual Medal of Honor convention in Charleston, S.C., in September.

The Medford store was selected by the clothing firm to provide the blazer for Taylor, Jackson said. The clothing will be ready well before the convention, he added.

"We are honored they picked us to do this," he said.

"It's wonderful what they are doing for all of us," said Taylor, 72, who, like other medal recipients, travels the country more than six months out of the year to talk to school students about his experiences. He and Sandra, his wife of 52 years, live in Trinity Center, a small community about 70 miles northwest of Redding.

The highest award for bravery given to anyone in the military, the Medal of Honor is presented by the president in the name of Congress. It has been given to slightly more than 3,400 people in uniform since it was first presented in 1863, many of them awarded posthumously.

But Taylor insists he did what any responsible officer would do on Nov. 9, 1967, near Que Son, a valley about 50 miles southeast of Da Nang.

"You don't have time to give it any deep thought," said the Arcata, Calif., native. "My concern as the executive officer was to get our wounded taken care of. I was only doing my job."

But his award citation offers another perspective.

In the fall of 1967, then 1st Lt. Taylor, a "mustang" who had spent a decade as an enlisted man before becoming an officer, was serving as executive officer for Troop B of the 1st Cavalry Regiment, Americal Division.

After the unit's commanding officer was wounded, he stepped forward to lead a search-and-destroy mission. His troop was engaged in an attack on a fortified position when it came under intense enemy fire from recoilless rifles, mortars and automatic weapons. One armored cavalry assault vehicle was hit immediately by recoilless rifle fire, leaving all five crew members wounded.

"Aware that the stricken vehicle was in grave danger of exploding, Taylor rushed forward and personally extracted the wounded to safety despite the hail of enemy fire and exploding ammunition," the citation reads.

Within minutes, a second armored vehicle was hit by multiple recoilless rifle rounds. Once again Taylor moved forward on foot to rescue the wounded men from the burning vehicle just before it exploded, according to the citation.

"As he was returning to his vehicle, a bursting mortar round painfully wounded Taylor, yet he valiantly returned to his vehicle to relocate the medical evacuation landing zone to an area closer to the front lines," it continued.

As he was moving his vehicle, it came under machine gun fire from an enemy position no more than 50 yards away. Taylor returned fire with the vehicle's machine gun, killing the enemy's 3-man gun crew.

Finally, when he arrived at the new evacuation site, another armored vehicle was struck.

"Once again Taylor rushed forward and pulled the wounded from the vehicle, loaded them aboard his vehicle and returned them safely to the evacuation site," the document stated.

His valor inspired his unit, contributed significantly to the success of the overall mission and was directly responsible for saving the lives of a number of his fellow soldiers, the citation concluded.

Taylor, who retired in 1979, said his only thought was to come to the aid of his comrades-in-arms.

"I had some wonderful men — a hell of a team," he said. "As long as I could stand up and walk, they were not going to take me out of the fight. I needed to get my men out of harm's way. I had a job to do."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.