Two American Vietnam veterans were presented with the nation's highest military decoration for valor at the White House today. Spec. Donald P. Sloat received the award posthumously having given, as Lincoln once put it, “the last full measure of devotion” more than four decades ago.
Dr. Bill Sloat, his surviving brother, attended the ceremony and thus accepted the award on his behalf:
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.
Eighty-year-old Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins, for his part, attended the ceremony in person. The Alabama native served three tours in Vietnam and, unsurprisingly, his heroism and courage under fire is worth reading about in full. But if you don’t have time, here’s a short excerpt:
As many as 175 enemy troops killed, 18 wounds from enemy fire, 38 hours of battle, 48 hours evading the North Vietnamese troops in the bush -- and one tiger. Those are the numbers behind Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins' Medal of Honor, an award he will receive from President Obama in a White House ceremony Monday. Adkins, of Opelika, Alabama, is being honored for his actions in Vietnam's A Shau Valley more than 48 years ago. Then a 32-year-old sergeant first class, Adkins was among a handful of Americans working with troops of the South Vietnamese Civil Irregular Defense Group at Camp A Shau when the camp was attacked by a large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong force on March 9, 1966, according to an Army report.
"Adkins rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position defending the camp," the Army report says. "He continued to mount a defense even while incurring wounds from 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. As the hostile fire subsided, Adkins exposed himself to sporadic sniper fire and carried his wounded comrades to a more secure position."
The White House also announced that a veteran of the Civil War, 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, will soon be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor as well. Cushing was killed in action on the third and final day of fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. He was 22-years-old.
UPDATE: Videos added.