Almost 200 veterans from Wisconsin, along with their escorts, came to Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on July 28, 2023. Among the group were two Vietnam-Era U.S. Army veterans who earned the Medal of Honor: Spc. 5 (Ret.) Jim McCloughan and Sgt. 1st Class (Ret.) Sammy Davis.
McCloughan was proud to return to the cemetery but considers himself no hero. “The real heroes are those who give their life for their country,” he said. “Those who give their lives and we don’t know who they are? That’s even more significant.”
McCloughan earned his Medal of Honor as a medic with the Americal Division. His company air assaulted into an area near Tam Ky on May 13, 1969 and engaged with both North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces for three days. During the fight, McCloughan retrieved almost ten wounded soldiers under fire, survived numerous wounds, volunteered to hold a strobe light in a field to signal resupply helicopters, and knocked out an enemy rocket-propelled grenade position with a hand grenade.
Sammy Davis, who comes to ANC almost yearly, added. “I know a lot of people that are buried here.” Reflecting on his life and service, he choked up and said, “I’m 76 years old, so it’s like a family reunion and it’s always very special.” He also visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial whenever he’s in Washington, D.C.
Davis earned his Medal of Honor as an artilleryman for the 9th Infantry Division. When the Viet Cong attacked his firebase on Nov. 18, 1967, he manned a machine gun and held off the enemy. Despite being wounded, he then took over a burning howitzer and fired several shells. He also helped rescue three American soldiers on the opposite side of a river by crossing on an air mattress. Davis’ heroics received publicity again in 1994, when the footage of his Medal of Honor ceremony was used in the movie “Forrest Gump” with actor Tom Hanks’ head superimposed over his.
Upon arrival at the ANC’s Memorial Amphitheater, McCloughan, Davis and the other veterans watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Then they boarded their bus for a same-day return to Wisconsin.