The late Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins, described by President Barack Obama as a peerless soldier whose gift of service to the nation and his community "will be with us for eternity," will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 16.
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Adkins, an Army legend through three tours in Vietnam as a Green Beret, died in April at age 86 from complications of COVID-19 at the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama, after a final 23-day battle against the virus.
The Adkins family had postponed the funeral service and burial while Arlington National Cemetery was limiting public access during the pandemic.
The cemetery reopened to the general public Sept. 9, but access to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the amphitheater is still restricted.
In a letter to the Adkins family, President Donald Trump wrote, "The amount of lives that Bennie touched are countless. He lived a life that exemplified his devout faith and deep love for his country and fellow Americans.
"As you reflect on his remarkable life, we hope you are comforted by his esteemed legacy of service and sacrifice," he added.
Adkins was awarded the nation's highest honor for valor by Obama in a September 2014 White House ceremony in recognition of his multi-day battle with mortars, grenades and a sawed-off shotgun in Vietnam's forbidding A Shau valley 48 years earlier.
"At about 2 a.m. on March 9, 1966, they hit us," Adkins said in a 2018 interview with Military.com. "They laid down some mortar, 82 and 120 mortars on us initially. Then mass assaults."
At one point, the North Vietnamese had his unit surrounded at night.
"We started hearing a noise and then we could see the eyes -- about a 400-pound Indonesian tiger was stalking us that night," he said. "The North Vietnamese soldiers -- they backed away from us [because of the tiger] and gave us room, and we were able to get away."
While "the tiger kinda helped," he said, the battle continued for another two days.
His medal citation states: "During the thirty-eight-hour battle and forty-eight hours of escape and evasion, fighting with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, it was estimated that Sergeant First Class Adkins killed between 135 and 175 of the enemy while sustaining eighteen different wounds to his body."
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com