WASHINGTON — A 71-year-old Vietnam veteran from west Michigan will receive the nation’s highest military award from President Donald Trump at a White House ceremony.
James McCloughan, a retired high school teacher and coach who lives in South Haven, is set to receive the Medal of Honor today for valor and bravery he displayed nearly 50 years ago as a medic, when he is credited with saving the lives of 10 members of his platoon at the Battle of Nui Yon Hill.
McCloughan — who rose to the rank of specialist 5 before leaving the serve– had already received several decorations associated with his bravery, including the Combat Medical Badge, two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars. But the Medal of Honor generally must be awarded within five years of the actions that warrant it.
Several years ago, McCloughan’s platoon leader, Randy Clark, began trying to get him the award. Eventually, the Department of Defense agreed he was deserving — but it required an act of Congress last year to waive the time limit. President Barack Obama signed the act making McCloughan eligible before he left office this year.
McCloughan was a 23-year-old medic when, over the course of a bloody, two-day battle in May 1969 near Don Que, he returned to the battlefield multiple times to retrieve wounded soldiers despite being hit with shrapnel from a grenade and being shot in the arm. After he left the service, he returned to Michigan and taught psychology, sociology and geography at South Haven High School and coached football, wrestling and baseball. He is also a member of the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame.
“Specialist James McCloughan served our country honorably and courageously, saving the lives of 10 members of his platoon in Vietnam,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. “We are proud to have played a part in ensuring this American hero finally receives the recognition he deserves.”
“Then-Private First Class McCloughan put his life on the line to rescue his fellow service members, and later went on to inspire future generations of leaders as an educator in Michigan,” added U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, also D-Mich., and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “With today’s Medal of Honor ceremony, James McCloughan has finally received the recognition he earned for his service to our country.”
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, whose district includes South Haven, said he was “deeply humbled and honored” to join the award ceremony today.
“Those who give their all in service of their country and fellow man deserve just praise and due credit. For decades, that never came for James McCloughan. On Monday he will finally receive the public gratitude and recognition he duly earned all those years ago,” Upton said.
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