DES MOINES, Iowa-- An Iowa soldier is being honored for giving his life in sacrifice of others. The Vietnam veteran left college at Iowa State to fight for his country. He returned home and wouldn’t die from his combat wounds until more than four decades later.
Friday, the name of James S. McGough will officially be added to the Vietnam War Monument on the state capitol grounds. He joins 868 Iowans on the wall.
“To me, it`s hallowed ground,” said Dan Gannon, a Vietnam Veteran with the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs.
A place to remember and honor our veterans.
“There is a name on the wall, but it`s a story behind it and it`s a person behind that name that makes it important,” said Gannon.
McGough’s story begins like so many others in Iowa, on a farm in Fort Dodge.
“Everybody thought we were twins growing up,” said sister Karen Heun.
Like twins, the siblings always shared a special bond. She’ll never forget the evening of 1971, when she got a call from her big brother, Jim.
“He said all I can say is I`m wounded and I`m fine,” said Heun.
Three men died the day her brother was wounded when their unit came under heavy. Shrapnel from a grenade that shredded Jim’s legs and feet ended his tour. He returned home to his family and sweetheart, Sherry.
“When he got back from Vietnam we didn`t talk about it. It was to be forgotten,” said Sherry McGough.
The couple went on with life, had two girls and life was good.
“I didn`t see any wounds except bad scarring on his legs and around his ankles,” she said.
Her husband was suffering from an invisible war wound. In the early 1990’s, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Doctors traced his infection back to a blood transfusion he received at a military hospital after being injured in Vietnam.
While visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C, Jim said something Sherry wouldn’t forget.
“He said that day, if this disease kills me, I want my name on this wall.”
Decades later, after fighting for his life, Jim lost his battle with the disease. He was 62. Last year, James S. McGough became the first Iowan added to the national memorial wall since 1994
“Just knowing that he in death has been honored in so many ways for his service, it makes me very proud. They see him as a hero because his name is on the wall, but he was such a hero in everyday life,” said daughter, Janelle Larson.
McGough's legacy is now etched on two walls, in the nation’s capital and here at home in Iowa.