President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to two Vietnam veterans on Monday — one living and one who died in combat.
Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat was "determined to serve his country," Obama said. Sloat was so determined to serve that he took the physical seven times until he passed. While he was with his company in Vietnam on January 17, 1970, one of the soldiers tripped a grenade. "In that moment, he could’ve run," Obama said. But instead, Sloat picked up the grenade and held it close to his body, taking on the full impact of the explosion, Obama said. All of his comrades survived the detonation. Sloat's brother, Dr. Bill Sloat, accepted the Medal of Honor on his behalf. Their mother knew her son would one day receive the award and had chosen a dress for the ceremony, but died three years ago, Obama said.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins, 80, was present to receive his award. "Bennie performed so many acts of bravery, we actually don't have time to mention all of them," Obama said. The president detailed some of Adkins' heroic acts, including a time when he took on enemy fire while loading a wounded American onto a helicopter and when he refused to be evacuated from Vietnam himself, even though he was wounded. He "insisted that others go instead," Obama said. "When Bennie and I met in the oval office, he asked if he could sign back up," the president recounted, smirking. "His lovely wife was not amused." Adkins saluted after Obama put the Medal of Honor around his neck. Two of the soldiers he saved were in attendance.
Medal of Honor recommendations typically must be made within two years of the act of heroism, but Congress made an exception for Sloat and Adkins. The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military honor.
— Elisha Fieldstadt