AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) Friday’s Medal of Honor Ceremony honoring Col. Ralph Puckett Jr. brings back fond memories for the family of the late Command Sergeant Major Bennie Adkins, who was awarded the military’s highest decoration in 2014. Adkins’ son Dr. Keith Adkins spoke with WRBL News 3 about his dad’s legacy.
In 2014 Retired Command Sgt. Major Bennie Adkins of East Alabama traveled to Washington D.C. with his family, where then-President Barack Obama presented him with the Medal of Honor.
“It’s was overwhelming. As a family, of course, we loved it. It was a whirlwind few days, and on days like today when you have someone else receiving it, a lot of those memories come back, and they are memories we cherish and will remember forever,” shared Dr. Adkins.
Alabama and the country mourned Adkins passing a year ago in April 202. His outgoing and friendly spirit is deeply missed. While Adkins’ military bravery is well documented, his son says Adkins’ life after serving 20 years in the Army, 13 as a Green Beret, was just as heroic.
“What many people don’t know is what he did after the service, and I’m equally proud of that, if not more so. When he left in the late ’70s, with the economy being as it was and the bad feelings with Vietnam, he was able to get out and make a career for himself, he worked part time, went to school at night, with three kids in the house, and this is a man in his mid 40’s. That took a lot of guts and will to persevere,” said Dr. Adkins.
Adkins earned his Bachelor’s, two masters and ran a successful accounting firm while being a loving dad to five children. The Adkins family says Bennie’s legacy continues, even after his passing, as he used his Medal of Honor to set up a non-profit foundation to help others succeed.
“His life was all about giving back. And with the Medal of Honor, he established the Bennie Adkins Foundation, a non-profit that awards scholarships to deserving Green Berets. So that is just a part of his legacy, and as his family, we are certainly very proud of him,” said Dr. Adkins.
A native of Waurika, Oklahoma, Sgt. Maj. Adkins served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, over 13 of those years spent as a Green Beret in 7th, 3rd, 6th, and 5th Special Forces Groups. He deployed to Vietnam three times, his heroic efforts in one 1966 battle later recognized in 2014 with the awarding of the Congressional Medal of Honor. His Medal of Honor citation in part reads:
“During the thirty-eight-hour battle and forty-eight hours of escape and evasion, fighting with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, it was estimated that Sergeant First Class Adkins killed between 135 and 175 of the enemy while sustaining eighteen different wounds to his body.”
“Sergeant First Class Adkins’ extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, Detachment A-102, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces and the United States Army.”
Following retirement in 1978 at the rank of Command Sergeant Major, he went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree and two Master’s degrees from Troy University, later building an accounting firm which he headed for 22 years until the time of his retirement.
In 2017, he established The Bennie Adkins Foundation with the mission of providing educational scholarships to Special Forces soldiers. Honoring Command Sergeant Major Adkins’ commitment to service, education, and to his Special Forces brethren, his eponymous foundation aims “to reward deserving soldiers who have demonstrated the courage, sacrifice, and patriotism inherent in the Special Forces, and aid them as they continue trying to improve themselves through education.”