Bravery in Vietnam earns Adkins belated Medal of Honor
Posted September 15, 2014 10:29 a.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2014 5:21 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday bestowed the Medal of Honor on a pair of soldiers for their acts of bravery in the Vietnam War.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins was on hand to hear the president's praise for his extraordinary courage while under attack at a remote camp in the A Shau Valley.
"Bennie ran into enemy fire again and again to retrieve supplies, ammo, to carry the wounded to safety, to man the mortar pit, to fend off wave after wave of enemy assault," Obama said. "Three times, explosions blew him out of the mortar pit, and three times he returned."
Adkins, who served 22 years and lives in Opelika, Alabama, was deployed three times to Vietnam with the Special Forces out of Fort Bragg was recognized for actions during his second combat tour, in 1966.
Service records show Adkins killed as many as 175 enemy fighters that day, and suffered 18 wounds all over his body. Injured, he led his group to safety in the cover of the night.
But another enemy waited.
"Bennie, wounded and bleeding, found himself with his men on that jungle hill exhausted with the enemy closing in," Obama described.
"With all they had gone through, there in the the jungle they heard the growls of a tiger. They say the tiger was the best thing that happened to them, that the North Vietnamese were more scared of the tiger."
The enemy fled, and Adkins and his men were rescued the next morning.
Some of the men in his patrol rose to their feet Monday afternoon at the White House as he accepted his honor.
Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat was also recognized in the ceremony.
Congress made an exception so the two men could receive the medal, because recommendations typically must be made within two years of the act of heroism, and the medal presented within three.
Sloat, of Coweta, Oklahoma, was killed in action on Jan. 17, 1970, at age 20. While on patrol, a soldier in his squad triggered a hand grenade trap that had been placed in their path by enemy forces.
According to the White House, Sloat picked up the live grenade, initially to throw it away. When he realized it was about to detonate, he shielded the blast with his own body in order to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
Sloat's brother, William, accepted the medal on his behalf.
The Medal of Honor is given to Armed Forces members who risk their lives in acts of great personal bravery.