MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Medal of Honor recipient Bennie G. Adkins, who died from COVID-19 earlier this year, was remembered at his funeral Wednesday both for his battlefield heroics and the work he did to help others after Vietnam.
Adkins’ flag-draped coffin sat at the front of an Arlington National Cemetery chapel decorated with Christmastime poinsettias as Lt. Col. Michael Shellman, an Army chaplain, described the retired Army command sergeant major as a decorated veteran and “a man well-loved.”
Special Forces Gen. John W. Brennan Jr. recalled meeting Adkins at the ceremony in 2014 where Adkins was presented with the nation’s highest military honor for heroism during the Vietnam War. Adkins ran through exploding mortar rounds to drag several troops to safety, according to his medal citation, and then exposed himself to sniper fire to carry wounded comrades to medical care.
Adkins was “obviously courageous,” Brennan said, and he didn’t stop serving others after retiring from the Army.
Once home, Adkins earned college degrees and taught night classes for adults seeking their high school equivalency degrees. Three years ago he established The Bennie Adkins Foundation, which has provided about 50 educational scholarships to Special Forces soldiers.
“What he did after his career in the military is absolutely amazing,” Brennan said.
Adkins died in April at the age of 86 after developing the illness caused by the new coronavirus. His funeral was delayed because of the pandemic, and the service from Arlington National Cemetery was shown by livestream.
Gov. Kay Ivey ordered the lowering of flags to mark Adkins’ funeral. He was being buried beside his late wife, who died last year.