President Barack Obama honored the acts of valor by two Vietnam War soldiers who risked their lives to protect fellow troops, bestowing the Medal of Honor on them in a White House ceremony today. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins, who attended the ceremony, and Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat, who died in action and received the nation's highest military honor posthumously, were granted the medals nearly half a century after they fought in Vietnam. Congress granted an exemption to allow the soldiers to receive the medal so many years later, with the president noting that "even the most extraordinary acts on the battlefield can get lost in the fog of war or the passage of time."
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; his brother, William, accepted the medal on his behalf from the president. "You served with valor, you made us proud, and your service is with us for eternity," Obama told today's audience, which included Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel—himself a Vietnam veteran—and others who received the Medal of Honor after coming home from Vietnam. "This Medal of Honor belongs to the other 16 Special Forces soldiers with me," Adkins said after the ceremony.