On Wednesday, Medal of Honor recipient Bennie G. Adkins was finally laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
After contracting COVID-19 in March of this year, Adkins died after a brief struggle with the virus. He was 86. Due to the ongoing pandemic, his funeral was delayed until this December. He is buried beside Mary Adkins, his wife of more than 50 years who passed last year.
On September 15, 2014 Adkins was awarded the nation’s highest military honor by President Barack Obama for his actions on March 9 to 12, 1966, at Camp “A Shau,” Republic of Vietnam. In the early hours of March 9th, the camp was overrun by a large force of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.
According to his citation, “Sergeant First Class Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position continually adjusting fire for the camp, despite incurring wounds as the mortar pit received several direct hits from enemy mortars. Upon learning that several soldiers were wounded near the center of camp, he temporarily turned the mortar over to another soldier, ran through exploding mortar rounds, and dragged several comrades to safety.”
The soldiers were eventually ordered to evacuate the camp and did so by digging their way out of the rear bunker, all the while fighting off waves of attacking Viet Cong. During this time, “While carrying a wounded soldier to the extraction point,” reads Adkins’ citation, “he learned that the last helicopter had already departed. Sergeant First Class Adkins led the group while evading the enemy until they were rescued by helicopter on March 12, 1966.”
After 38 hours in battle and 48 hours of escape and evasion, it is estimated that Adkins killed 135-175 enemy soldiers, despite sustaining 18 different wounds to his body, according to the Army.
Originally joining the Army in 1956, Adkins completed three tours in Vietnam and went on to serve with the Special Forces for 13 years before retiring in 1978. He then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Troy State University, and two master’s degrees—one in education and one in marketing.
Once home, he continued to serve his community, teaching night classes for adults seeking high school equivalency degrees. In 2017 Adkins established The Bennie Adkins Foundation, which provides educational scholarships to Special Forces soldiers.
As for the delay in Adkins recognition, during the 2015 ceremony Obama explained: “Normally, the Medal of Honor must be awarded within a few years of the action. But sometimes even the most extraordinary stories can get lost in the fog of war or the passage of time. Yet, when new evidence comes to light, certain actions can be reconsidered for this honor, and it is entirely right and proper that we have done so.”