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South Haven's James McCloughan awarded Medal of Honor

WASHINGTON DC -- South Haven resident James McCloughan was awarded the military’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor, by President Donald Trump in a ceremony at the White House on Monday.

Around 3,500 people have received the Medal of Honor. There are currently 72 recipients still living, including McCloughan.

“Vietnam was my challenge. Many people, all people, will have their own Vietnam," McCloughan said.

Specialist five James McCloughan was only 22 when he was drafted into the Army.

The star athlete from Bangor High School and Olivet College soon found himself in the middle of the Vietnam War as a combat medic.

“We tried to bring freedom to the South Vietnamese, the same as we had here in our own country," McCloughan said.

Two months into his tour, McCloughan faced the brunt of his challenge, a 48-hour period of intense combat where he heroically saved the lives of 10 members of his company.

He still remembers one moment, a wounded comrade in his arms, bullets flying overhead, he prayed to god and offered a deal.

“I said, ‘Lord, if you’ll get me out of this hell on earth so I can tell my father face to face again that I love him and give him a hug, I’ll be the best dad, I’ll be the best coach, and I’ll be the best teacher that I can be,'" McCloughan said.

He survived Vietnam and returned home to South Haven, Michigan.

He now owed his end of the bargain so the man who friends say has a quote for every situation started his post-war life on the lake.

“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘The talents and skills that you have is God’s gift to you. What you do with them is your gift back to him,'" McCloughan said.

McCloughan started teaching and coaching at South Haven High School right before he was drafted so when he came home he went back.

His tour of duty lasted nearly 40 years teaching sociology and psychology, coaching football, baseball and wrestling to championship levels, even donating his time to American Legion Post 49 by turning their summer baseball league into winners.

“I was approached when I retired in 2008, and one of the things that was said to me ‘Can you imagine how many lives you’ve touched?’ And I said, 'Well can you imagine how many lives have touched me? I’m the lucky guy,'" McCloughan said.

McCloughan is grateful for the life he has led and says Vietnam taught him to value brotherhood, say 'I love you' to those you care about and contribute to your community.

He said the Medal of Honor is not just for him, but also for the men he served alongside.

Medal of Honor Ceremony James McCloughlan - photos courtesy White House.gov Medal of Honor Ceremony James McCloughlan - photos courtesy White House.gov Medal of Honor Ceremony James McCloughlan - photos courtesy White House.gov Medal of Honor Ceremony James McCloughlan - photos courtesy White House.gov Medal of Honor Ceremony James McCloughlan - photos courtesy White House.gov Medal of Honor Ceremony James McCloughlan - photos courtesy White House.gov


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