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Two Vietnam Vets to be Awarded Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

Two Vietnam veterans will be awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 15 during a White House ceremony.

Retired Command Sgt. Major Bennie G. Adkins will receive the nation's highest award for valor for combat actions at Camp A Shau from March 9-12, 1966, where he served as an intelligence noncommissioned officer with Det. A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces.

Spc. 4 Donald P. Sloat will be awarded the medal posthumously for heroic actions in combat near Hawk Hill Fire Base, Vietnam, on Jan. 17, 1970. Sloat was an M-60 machine gunner with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division.

The Army said Adkins, at the time of the action a sergeant first class, rushed through enemy fire to man a mortar position in the early morning of March 9, when large North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces attacked the base. He continued firing the mortar though wounded, finally turning it over to another soldier when he rushed to the center of the camp to drag several wounded troops to safety.

Over the course of the day, he continued to draw enemy fire as he moved casualties to safety and then to an airstrip for evacuation. Adkins continued to defend the base the next day when the main enemy force struck. Eventually leading the troops to fall back to a communications bunker, he held off the enemy while sensitive documents and equipment were destroyed, then led the troops into the jungle, evading the enemy for two more days until they could be rescued by helicopter.

Adkins currently lives in Opelika, Alabama. The White House said he and his wife, Mary, will attend the ceremony.

He served three tours in Vietnam between 1963 and 1971. The combat actions for which he is being awarded the Medal of Honor occurred during his second tour. He retired from the Army in 1978.

Sloat was killed in action a month shy of his 21st birthday, the Army said.

The Coweta, Oklahoma-born man was with his squad on patrol southwest of Danang on the morning of Jan. 17, 1970, when the lead soldier tripped a wire attached to a hand grenade booby-trap.

The grenade rolled downhill toward Sloat, who picked it up to toss away but quickly realized it was about to explode. With two or three other soldiers nearby he drew the grenade into his body to absorb the blast and shield the others.

"Sloat's actions define the ultimate sacrifice of laying down his own life in order to save the lives of his comrades," the Army said.

The White House said that the soldier's brother, Dr. William Sloat of Enid, Oklahoma, will accept the MOH from President Obama on behalf of his brother.

-- Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@monster.com

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