Outgoing President Barack Obama appears not to have the time to bestow the military’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, to former U.S. Army Spc. Jim McCloughan, 70, for his personal acts above and beyond the call of duty as a medic during the Vietnam War.
The warrior has been waiting for five decades to be recognized for saving 10 people in May 1969, despite having some grenade shrapnel and a bullet wound in his arm, during a gruesome battle of the Vietnam War that left scores of service members killed, wounded, or missing in action.
Although U.S. Army Secretary Eric Fanning signed off on warrior’s Medal of Honor certificate on December 27, McCloughan indicated the U.S. government had not told him about it, reports the Army Times.
— Alex Licea (@alexlicea82) December 27, 2016
“I’m anticipating that it will not be President Obama because of the lack of time that he has left in office. I just am waiting,” also said the Vietnam veteran, later adding, “It’s been nearly 48 years. I think I can wait a few more weeks.”
For a few weeks, the executive branch has been knee-deep in transition to the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, who will be inaugurated on Friday.
Yet, Obama made time last week to award his right-hand man, Vice President Joe Biden, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil honor.
Obama has also found the time to execute 11th-hour transfers out of the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and terminate the U.S. immigration policy dubbed “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” that allowed Cubans who reach U.S. soil to stay and ultimately become citizens, among other last-minute actions.
Nevertheless, Army Times reports:
The hitch is that once Fanning signed the certificate, it was sent to outgoing Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s office for approval. The next step would be a final signature from the president, but with less than a week left in office, officials don’t expect to pull off a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House.
“Secretary Fanning is doing his part to keep that process moving forward, and was sharing the story of this remarkable soldier,” declared Maj. Christopher Ophardt, a spokesman for the secretary of the Army. “The decision is the president’s to make, and no official decision has been made.”
Vietnam veteran McCloughan from Michigan has already been waiting decades to be recognized for his valor.
The most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law by Obama last week, contained a provision for the Michigan veteran to receive the Medal of Honor.
However, the outgoing commander-in-chief has not made the time to confer the award on the Vietnam hero.
The NDAA 2017 included a bipartisan exception sponsored by Democratic Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters along with Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) that authorized McCloughan to receive the medal. The award is the highest military decoration given by the United States government. The law mandates the award be given within five years of the service member’s actions.
Obama’s Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had bumped the nomination by the veteran’s former platoon leader for a Distinguished Service Cross to a Medal of Honor, but the move ran into hurdles due to the five-year requirement.
Army Times reports:
In May 1969, McCloughan was a 23-year-old private first class medic with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment during the Battle of Nui Yon Hill, a gruesome two-day battle that left dozens killed, wounded or missing in action.
McCloughan survived with some grenade shrapnel and a bullet wound in his arm, but managed to save 10 people, he told the Detroit Free Press last year.
Among other awards, the decorated Vietnam hero has also earned the Combat Medical Badge, two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars with “V” device for valor, the Vietnam Service Medal with three battle stars, and the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with palms and one oak leaf, among others, revealed a press release from the office of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) issued in December.