DETROIT – The presidential election is over, but the months of finger-pointing, name-calling and personal attacks still have emotions running high in Metro Detroit.
For a war veteran who sacrificed for his country, it has all been too much. Now he's making a personal sacrifice in the hope of unifying the country he loves.
During his time in the Vietnam War, Louis earned two Bronze Stars for acts of valor in combat and heroic achievement. But he has decided to throw them away.
There were 58,000 Americans who died in the Vietnam War, and at 18 years old, Louis was in the fight of his life.
"I was scared every single day," Louis said. "Every single day of my life in Vietnam, I was scared."
Louis didn't run away from a fight near Saigon -- he ran at the enemy with his unit, the second battalion of the 18th infantry.
"You've got bullets flying everywhere, hitting the ground, hitting the trees," Louis said.
When each battle was over, he carried wounded American soldiers back to safety.
"After the smoke clears and everything gets quiet, it's eerie, because you've got some people hollering for the medic," Louis said. "It's unimaginable, and people (are) dying."
When fellow soldiers died, Louis would make sure they were properly identified by ensuring their dog tags stayed with their bodies.
"The worst thing to me was having to take and put dog tags in my colleagues' and my friends' mouths and then pushing their head down," Louis said.
It's rare for a soldier to be awarded a Bronze Star for valor in combat, but Louis won two. He asked not to have his last name used out of fear that some veterans would be outraged over what he is about to do next: throwing his beloved medals into the Detroit River.
"You're going to have veterans angry at me," he said. "This is not an easy decision for me at all. It's very hard and pain-wrenching, but I know America turned its back on America, and that's not who we are."
How can he get rid of medals that are so hard to earn?
"That's what makes this so painful," Louis said. "My heart is racing right now, and if you feel it, you'll feel it. In the pit of my stomach, I feel sick, because these mean something, and it means something to me and my family and my legacy. But this is the only voice I've got right now. This is all I've got."
Louis thinks the American people have become too divisive during the election cycle, fighting against each other instead of with each other to create the best American for everyone.
"America, they didn't turn their back on the African-Americans, the Mexicans, the Muslims or the Puerto Ricans, they turned their back on America," Louis said. "That's wrong. You don't turn your back on America."
Louis wants to make a monumental statement, so he is throwing his medals into the Detroit River. He said the gesture is in honor of veterans like his gunner Robert Supina, who he said saved his life many times, and his brother-in-law, who died in combat.
"This one is for my brother-in-law, George Henry Potts, who lost his life in Vietnam in 1969, when I was there," Louis said. "George, I love you, and this is for you and all the other veterans who lost their lives in Vietnam."
He called it one of the hardest things he's ever done.
"In the pit of my stomach right now, I feel sick," Louis said. "I feel sad. I feel real sad. This is for you, America. Don't hate, love, America. Please, don't hate.
"And for all my veterans, I love you guys, man. This is for you. This is not a disrespect to you. This is for you and God bless the United States of America."
Reflecting and wiping away tears, Louis promised to work harder going forward to motivate, mobilize and unify Americans.
"That was rough, but it was the right thing for me (to do)," Louis said.
The Army allows Bronze Star winners to apply for replacements if medals are lost or stolen, but Louis said his originals are gone forever, and he won't even consider applying for replacements until he feels better about the state of the country.
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