McCloughan reported to basic training in September 1968 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. His training in athletics and coaching gave him a foundational knowledge of sports medicine, and his leaders took notice. Two months after arriving at basic training, he was assigned to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to complete advance training as a medical specialist. On his last day of training, McCloughan received deployment orders to Vietnam. He was assigned as a combat medic with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. His Vietnam tour was March 1969 to March 1970. Upon returning to civilian life in 1970, McCloughan continued teaching and pursued a degree in counseling and psychology, which he then taught at South Haven High School. He retired in 2008 and received the Michigan Education Association's 40 years of service award. On July 7, 2017, Specialist Five McCloughan's Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to a Medal of Honor, the award was presented to him by President Donald Trump. James McCloughan's dedication to service to others despite personal costs, both in the Army and throughout his civilian life, are exemplary of the values of the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart.