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Local war hero will be awarded Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam

James McCloughan will receive the Medal of Honor for his heroism in Vietnam.

BELMONT, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A veteran from South Haven will be awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Vietnam War. Jim McCloughan has been credited with saving the lives of 10 U.S. soldiers. He will be the 68th living soldier to receive the honor for his service in Vietnam.

"This medal is for the 89 who went in,” said McCloughan. “Whether they came out, or they didn't."

On May 15-17, 1969, McCloughan was part of a brutal battle in South Vietnam. He served as a combat medic with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade.

"You can't be prepared for what I saw,” said McCloughan. “I’m the one that will be holding a young man in my arm when he says his last words and takes his last breath.”

McCloughan was wounded by shrapnel as well as other fire. Still, he volunteered to stay and help his brothers who were fighting.

“I would rather be dead than to leave on that helicopter and find out days, months or years later that somebody died because they didn’t have a medic,” said McCloughan. “That was my job. I would complete it to the death.”

Nearly 50 years later, in October of 2016, Jim and his wife, Cherie, were having dinner at a diner. That’s when he received a voicemail on his cellphone.

"I just wanted to touch base with you because as you know we've been working to recognize, or get your service recognized in Vietnam,” said the message from U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. “Defense Secretary Ash Carter just contacted me. He’s going to recommend your heroic services in the war for the Medal of Honor.”

“We just stared at each other. Our eyes got like saucers,” said Cherie. "I just kind of sobbed like a child.”

Jim said that he will wear the medal with pride and that the real heroes don’t make it home.

“I’m still just Jim McCloughan. This isn’t a lucky thing. This is a medal about a group of men that just wouldn’t give up.”

McCloughan will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Trump on July 31st at the White House.

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