Vietnam soldiers receive Medal of Honour

2014-09-15 22:13
President Barack Obama presents retired Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G Adkins with the Medal of Honour in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

President Barack Obama presents retired Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G Adkins with the Medal of Honour in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Two Vietnam War soldiers - one still living, one killed in action - received the Medal of Honour in a White House ceremony on Monday, nearly 50 years after they threw themselves into harm's way to protect their brothers in combat. President Barack Obama praised the soldiers as patriots whose sacrifices had never been fully realised by a nation divided over the legacy of the Vietnam War.

Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G Adkins survived his injuries. Army Specialist Donald P Sloat did not. It took an act of Congress to allow each to receive the medal so many decades after the fact.

"Over the decades, our Vietnam veterans didn't always receive the thanks and respect they deserved. That's a fact," Obama said in the East Room. "But as we have been reminded again today, our Vietnam vets were patriots and are patriots."

"You served with valour, you made us proud, and your service is with us for eternity," Obama told the audience, which included Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel - himself a Vietnam veteran - and others who received the Medal of Honour after coming home from the rice paddies of Vietnam.

Drafted into the army at age 22 from his home in rural Oklahoma, Adkins was deployed three times to Vietnam with the Special Forces. He was already being recognised for actions during his second combat tour when, in 1966, a large North Vietnamese force attacked his camp.

For 38 hours, Adkins fought in close combat against enemy forces, dodging exploding mortar rounds as he dragged wounded soldiers to safety. When the order was finally given to evacuate camp, Adkins refused to leave comrades behind.

By the time he and his group made its way to the extraction point, the last evacuation helicopter had left. So Adkins led his fellow soldiers into the jungle, where they evaded enemy soldiers and even a tiger before being evacuated 48 hours later.

Adkins, now a much older version of himself and walking with a cane, stood tall in his blue uniform and epaulettes, saluting fellow troops after Obama draped the medal around his neck.

"This Medal of Honour belongs to the other 16 Special Forces soldiers with me," Adkins said after the ceremony.

Sloat was killed in action on 17 January 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 from the president on Monday.

The Medal of Honour is given to Armed Forces members who risk their lives in acts of great personal bravery.

Read more on:    us

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.