Coronavirus: Bennie Adkins, who won Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam, dead at 86

Bennie Adkins was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2014 by President Barack Obama.
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Bennie Adkins was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2014 by President Barack Obama.

Bennie Adkins, an Alabama resident who served with the Green Berets during the Vietnam War and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2014, died Friday after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, his foundation said. He was 86.

Adkins was hospitalized at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika in late March after testing positive for COVID-19, AL.com reported.

Adkins' death was announced on Facebook by the Bennie Adkins Foundation.

“We are deeply saddened to notify you that after a courageous battle with COVID-19, Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins departed this life today, with beloved family at his bedside,” the foundation said.

Adkins created the foundation to award scholarships to Special Forces soldiers, AL.com reported.

A native of Waurika, Oklahoma, Adkins was drafted in 1956 and was assigned as a clerk to a garrison unit in West Germany, The Washington Post reported. He remembered the job was boring, except for the day he fingerprinted Elvis Presley when the rock 'n' roll singer reported for duty overseas, the newspaper reported.

“To be honest,” Adkins would write in a memoir, “I was not really a fan of Elvis’ music.”

Adkins reenlisted and volunteered for Special Forces training in 1961, the Post reported. Over the next decade, he was deployed three times to Vietnam as a Green Beret. His second tour took him to the jungle-covered hills of the A Shau Valley in 1966, according to the newspaper.

Adkins was involved in 48 hours of close-combat fighting with the enemy on March 9-12, 1966, AL.com reported. He even had an encounter with a hungry tiger, the Post reported.

“I can tell you that none of us were happy to be in that camp,” Adkins wrote his 2018 memoir, “A Tiger Among Us." “It was about 30 miles from another friendly camp, was bordered by high mountains on the east and west, and was surrounded by a triple-canopy jungle. We were like fish in a barrel.”

Adkins wrote he was being tracked by the Viet Cong and the tiger, whose growls and “the glint of two large eyes in the dark” scared off the enemy.

"They must have heard it or seen it, too, and the only thing I can figure is the enemy was more afraid of this tiger than they were of us,” Adkins told the Tuscaloosa News.

Forty-eight years later, Adkins was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama. The Medal of Honor proclamation honored Adkins for "fighting with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades," AL.com reported. Adkins killed between 135 and 175 enemy soldiers while sustaining 18 different wounds, according to the citation.

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