WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says a grateful nation honors the acts of valor by two Vietnam War soldiers who risked their lives to protect fellow troops.
Obama is bestowing the Medal of Honor on Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat, nearly half a century after they fought in Vietnam.
Adkins ran through enemy fire while rescuing injured comrades. He was injured but survived.
Sloat did not. He pulled an enemy grenade close to his body to protect fellow troops from the blast.
Congress granted an exemption to allow the soldiers to receive the medal so many years later. Obama says even the most extraordinary acts on the battlefield can get lost in the fog of war or the passage of time.
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President Barack Obama on Monday will bestow the Medal of Honor on a pair of soldiers for their acts of bravery in the Vietnam War.
Congress granted an exemption so Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat could receive the medal, because recommendations typically must be made within two years of the act of heroism, and the medal presented within three.
A soldier who fought in the Civil War was expected to receive the Medal of Honor posthumously at a later date. First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing died in July 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Adkins, who served 22 years and lives in Opelika, Alabama, planned to attend the Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House. Adkins was deployed three times to Vietnam with the Special Forces and was being recognized for actions during his second combat tour, in 1966, when he ran wounded through enemy fire to drag injured comrades to safety.
Sloat, of Coweta, Oklahoma, was killed in action on Jan. 17, 1970, at age 20. While on patrol, a soldier in his squad triggered a hand grenade trap that had been placed in their path by enemy forces. According to the White House, Sloat picked up the live grenade, initially to throw it away. When he realized it was about to detonate, he shielded the blast with his own body in order to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
Sloat's brother, William, planned to accept the medal from the president Monday.
The Medal of Honor is given to Armed Forces members who risk their lives in acts of great personal bravery.