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Bennie Adkins, Medal of Honor recipient, dies

The Montgomery Advertiser logoThe Montgomery Advertiser 4/18/2020 Brian Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser

Bennie Adkins, who was awarded the Medal of Honor 48 years after a battle in Vietnam in which he saved fellow soldiers' lives while being wounded 18 times, has died. He was 86. 

Adkins' death was reported by the Bennie Adkins Foundation's Facebook page on Friday. 

"We are deeply saddened to notify you that after a courageous battle with COVID-19, Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins departed this life today, with beloved family at his bedside," the statement said.

Adkins, who lived in Opelika, was hospitalized at the end of March with coronavirus.

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Adkins was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2014 for his actions during a battle between March 9 and March 12, 1966. When the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers attacked Camp A Shau, Adkins rushed through intense fire to man a mortar, which came under fire and led to wounds. He later ran through mortar fire to bring many fellow soldiers to safety. Adkins continued to rescue soldiers after the main attack died down, and braved sniper fire to do so. 

a man sitting on a table: Congressional Medal of Honor winner Bennie Adkins attends a joint session of the legislature held in recognition of Military Appreciation Day, at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 12, 2015. © Mickey Welsh / Advertiser Congressional Medal of Honor winner Bennie Adkins attends a joint session of the legislature held in recognition of Military Appreciation Day, at the Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday May 12, 2015.

On March 10, Adkins manned a mortar by himself and fought waves of attacking soldiers with rifle and small arms fire. He later ran back to the position to retrieve ammunition and fought his way out of the camp, destroying sensitive information before doing so. 

Adkins initially received the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his effort. In the early 2000s, the U.S. Army reviewed its list of DSC recipients and found seven veterans, including Adkins, who qualified for the Medal of Honor. He received the medal at a ceremony in the White House in September, 2014. 

“Normally, this medal must be awarded within a few years of the action,” Obama said at the ceremony. “But sometimes even the most extraordinary stories can get lost in the fog of war.”

Adkins told the Duncan Banner in 2014 that he was "thankful to have survived being wounded."

“What I attribute this to is not my actions, but the actions of the other 16 Americans that were with us in the battle of Camp A Shau and the five Americans that paid the ultimate price,” Adkins told the newspaper.

Bennie Adkins was born on Feb. 1, 1934, in Oklahoma, one of seven children in a farm family. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1956 and spent 13 years as a Green Beret, deploying to Vietnam three times. After retiring from the Army as a command sergeant major in 1978, he earned three degrees from Troy University, and founded an accounting business which he ran for 22 years, according to the foundation.  

Adkins also taught adult education and computer science at Auburn University and Southern Union State Community College.

He is survived by three children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or blyman@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Bennie Adkins, Medal of Honor recipient, dies

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