Obama to award 3 Medals of Honor, including 1 to Civil War soldier

Army Spc. 4 Donald P. Sloat and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins.


By JENNIFER HLAD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 26, 2014

President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to two soldiers who served in Vietnam and one who distinguished himself in the battle of Gettysburg, the White House announced Tuesday.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Army Spc. 4 Donald P. Sloat will be honored Sept. 15 for their conspicuous gallantry. 

Adkins deployed to Vietnam three times. During his second deployment, in March of 1966, he was a sergeant first class with Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces. 

Adkins displayed "extraordinary bravery" during a sustained and vicious attack by the Vietcong from March 9 to March 12, 1966, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. said in 2013. 

Rogers spoke about Adkins' actions in asking Congress to pass a bill allowing the president to award him the Medal of Honor.

Adkins had been recommended by his command for the Medal of Honor but received a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, which included running through exploding mortar rounds while wounded to drag several of his fellow soldiers to safety, Rogers said.

Adkins retired from the Army after serving 22 years and will travel to Washington from his home in Alabama to receive the medal, the White House said.

Sloat was a machine gunner with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, when he was killed in Vietnam in 1970.

Sloat’s squad was on a patrol near Hawk Hill Fire Base on Jan. 17, 1970 when one of the soldiers triggered a grenade booby trap in their path, the White House said. Sloat picked up the grenade, intending to throw it away, but realizing it was about to explode, instead used his body to shield three fellow soldiers from the blast, the White House said. 

Sloat’s brother, William Sloat of Enid, Oklahoma, will accept the medal on his brother’s behalf.

Obama also approved a Medal of Honor for 1st Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing for his actions while serving as commanding officer of Battery A, 4th United States Artillery, Artillery Brigade, 2nd Corps, Army of the Potomac.

Cushing was shot multiple times while commanding his battery in the area of Cemetery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863, but refused to retreat, according to the 2013 bill authorizing the president to award Cushing the Medal of Honor. His battery took “a severe pounding by Confederate artillery,” and as the rebel infantry advanced in what is known as Pickett’s Charge, Cushing manned the last working piece of field artillery in his battery, according to the White House.

Cushing was killed, but his actions made it possible for the Union Army to overcome the Confederate assault, the White House said. A small monument was erected in Cushing’s honor at Gettysburg, and he was buried with full honors at West Point, his alma mater.

The Medal of Honor is awarded to servicemembers who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.

Also this week, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has recommended awarding a Medal of Honor to Sgt. Henry Johnson, who served in the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment during World War I.

Obama has not yet approved the award, which, like those for Adkins, Sloat and Cushing, requires Congress to pass special legislation before moving forward because the actions took place more than five years ago.

Twitter: @jhlad


This undated photo provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society shows First Lt. Alonzo Cushing. Cushing, a Civil War soldier, is to be honored with the nation's highest military decoration 151 years after his death. His descendants and Civil War buffs have been pushing for the Union Army lieutenant killed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to receive the award.