President Barack Obama awarded the nation’s highest military honor to a pair of soldiers for their bravery during the Vietnam War during a White House ceremony Monday.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins of Opelika, Alabama received the Medal of Honor for running wounded through enemy fire to pull injured soldiers to safety at Camp A Shau in March 1966.
Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat of Coweta, Oklahoma received the Medal of Honor for his actions during combat operations in the vicinity of Hawk Hill Fire Base in January 1970. He was killed in action when shielded the blast of a grenade with his own body to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. Sloat's brother, William, accepted the medal Monday.
“Two discrete moments, but today we honor two American soldiers for gallantry above and beyond the call of duty,” Obama said at a ceremony in the East Room. “Nearly half a century after their acts of valor, a grateful nation bestows upon these men the highest military decoration –- the Medal of Honor.”
Congress had to grant an exemption so the two could receive the medal, because recommendations typically must be made within two years of the act of heroism, and the medal presented within three.
“Normally, this medal must be awarded within a few years of the action,” Obama said. “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. And that is why we are here today.”
Obama has bestowed the medal of honor 42 times.