Two soldiers who fought in Vietnam and a Union lieutenant who helped hold the line at the Battle of Gettysburg will receive the Medal of Honor next month, the White House announced Tuesday.
President Obama on Sept. 15 will present the nation's highest award for valor to Army Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and posthumously to Army Spec. 4 Donald P. Sloat for their conspicuous gallantry in Vietnam, the White House said in a statement.
At the same ceremony, the posthumous award of the Medal of Honor will also go to 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing of Battery A, 4th Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac for his actions at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.
All three awards were the result of the lobbying of Congress by advocates on behalf of the recipients to waive the time limits normally in effect for awarding the MOH.
Last December, Congress attached an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to "authorize and request the President to award the Medal of Honor to Bennie G. Adkins and Donald P. Sloat," both of Oklahoma. The Distinguished Service Crosses initially awarded to Adkins and Sloat will be officially upgraded to the Medal of Honor at the White House ceremony.
Similar action was taken on behalf of Cushing, a Wisconsin native, after a lobbying campaign that began in the 1980s with letters to then-Sen. William Proxmire, D-Wisconsin, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Cushing, then 22 and a West Point graduate, was at the key point called "the angle" in a stone wall facing the brunt of the charge by Confederate troops under Maj. Gen. George Pickett. The spot has come to be known as the "high-water mark of the Confederacy."
"During the advance, he was wounded in the stomach as well as in the right shoulder," the White House statement said of Cushing. "Refusing to evacuate to the rear despite his severe wounds, he directed the operation of his lone field piece continuing to fire in the face of the enemy. "
"With the rebels within 100 yards of his position, Cushing was shot and killed during this heroic stand," the statement said.
Spec. 4 Sloat, of Coweta, Oklahoma, was awarded the DSC for his actions on Jan. 17, 1970, in Vietnam's Quang Tin province while serving with the Army's 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Infantry Brigade of the Americal Division. Sloat was killed when he covered a booby-trap grenade with his body to save the lives of others in his unit.
William Sloat of Enid, Oklahoma, will accept the Medal of Honor on his brother's behalf, the White House said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Adkins, 80, who served three tours in Vietnam, will attend the White House ceremony with his wife, Mary. Adkins.
From March 9-12, 1966, Adkins was serving as a sergeant first class with Army Special Forces Detachment A-102 in Vietnam's A Shau valley, about 30 miles southwest of Hue City, which was a key infiltration route for North Vietnamese forces into South Vietnam.
Adkins was wounded while rushing through enemy fire to man a mortar pit as Viet Cong forces attempted to overrun his unit's position. Though wounded, he ran through enemy fire again to drag wounded comrades to safety.
"During the evacuation of a seriously wounded American, Adkins maneuvered outside the camp walls to draw fire and successfully covered the rescue," the DSC citation said.
The next day, the enemy launched the main attack and "although wounded with most of his team killed or wounded, he (Adkins) fought off the waves of attacking Viet Cong," the citation said.
"Adkins and the small group of remaining soldiers were ordered to evacuate the camp. Although they were running low on ammunition, they fought their way out of the camp and evaded the Viet Cong for two days until they were rescued," the citation said.
Adkins was drafted into the Army in 1956, served a total of 13 years with the Special Forces and retired as a Command Sergeant Major in 1978. He served three tours in Vietnam and his other awards include the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and the Purple Heart with four Oak Leaf Clusters.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org