It is my distinct honor to share in recognition for these two American heroes. Though delayed for over 40 years, it's essential we celebrate their valorous service and sacrifice to our nation. Yesterday at the White House these men joined an elite group of Medal of Honor recipients, and today we induct them into the Hall of Heroes . . . hallowed ground here in the Pentagon honoring our bravest warriors.
Thank you Secretary Hagel and Under Secretary Carson for your inspiring words and for hosting today's induction ceremony.
These medals also honor all those who served and died alongside Command Sergeant Major Adkins and Specialist 4 Sloat. Those members of A-102, 5th Special Forces and 3d Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division . . . all those veterans joining here with us today... please stand and be recognized. As Secretary Carson mentioned, we're blessed today to have three prior Medal of Honor recipients with us today. We want to extend a special thanks to you in helping to recognize our two newest recipients… Command Sergeant Major Adkins and Specialist 4 Sloat. You honor our nation and inspire us all by your courage; your dedication to the values we all hold dear and your bond with fellow Soldiers.
A special welcome to the families who have waited so long to share in the honor of this day. The strength of our Soldiers is our Families and in this case two women in particular stand out as heroes: Mrs. Mary Adkins, Command Sergeant's wife of 58 years, and Mrs. Evelyn Sloat, Specialist 4 Sloat's mom. Mary Adkins raised a family while her husband fought for our country during three tours in Vietnam…that family is with her here today in this great ceremony. Mary rarely knew when he was leaving, where he was going, or if and when he would return. She dedicated herself in support of her Soldier. Evelyn Sloat, in her final two years of life, fought to ensure her son's valorous acts were appropriately recognized. These proud women bore so many burdens for our nation, and I join all Americans in praise for your inspiring example.
So today we honor these men and those who fought alongside them, especially their comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice; five Americans died fighting with Command Sergeant Major Adkins at Camp A Shau. Today we also honor:
• Raymond Allen
• Billie Allen Hall
• Owen McCann
• Phillip Stahl
• AND James Lawrence Taylor
Specialist 4 Sloat, as you have heard, came from Coweta, Oklahoma and this small town lost eight of her sons in Vietnam. A tremendous sacrifice for the citizens of Coweta, and this award honors them, for they raised these valiant Patriots, and they've stood by their families through the years. So today we also honor:
• Jimmy Lee Campbell
• Billy Carver
• Frank Faught
• Dallas Perryman
• Grover Boston
• Phillip Sanders
• Edgar Pulliam, Jr.
• Ruben Dykes
Describing his experience in Vietnam, Lieutenant-General Harold Moore wrote: "We discovered in that depressing, hellish place, where death was our constant companion, that we loved each other. We killed for each other, we died for each other, and (yes) we wept for each other." (End of quote)
Love of comrades certainly motivates Soldiers to fight, and commit to one another, and both of these Warriors we honor today exemplify this inseparable bond of Soldiers who shared the hell of combat.
Donald Sloat's action, on his final day, was not an isolated act of courage. In fact, he volunteered for service in early 1969 . . . on the heels of the bloodiest year of the Vietnam War; just as President Nixon announced Vietnamization... as the United States began planning for the war's end. Yet Donald Sloat chose to serve. SPC 4 Sloat was in Vietnam for less than four months and in that time earned an Army Commendation Medal with Valor, a Bronze Star with Valor, and yesterday the Medal of Honor. Indeed, Don was no ordinary Soldier.
He pulled a grenade into his body in order to save the lives of the rest of his team. He loved his comrades . . . and Donald Sloat gave his life for his brothers. Don was an extraordinary Soldier. . . and I am humbled to join our nation to honor his service once again here today.
Command Sergeant Major Bennie Adkins sustained 18 combat wounds on that day in March 1966 in the A Shau Valley. In his words "someone else was watching over me . . . not myself." As a Green Beret, Bennie earned a Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star with Oak leaf Cluster and a V Device, and three Purple Hearts . . . and now, a Medal of Honor.
The story of Command Sergeant Major Adkins valor may be familiar to us, but it bares reinforcement. After fighting back waves of enemy fighters and evacuating multiple injured Soldiers out of the camp, there was no exfil helicopter for his Special Forces team when ordered to leave Camp A Shau. Sergeant First Class Adkins led a team evading the enemy, at which point he claims he felt safer because this group of Green Berets was better at jungle fighting than the indigenous enemy…for all our Green Berets in the room sounds kind of familiar doesn't it. He fought for nearly four days in a continuous struggle for survival; sustaining 18 combat wounds . . . yet five years later he returned to Vietnam for his third tour. He loved his comrades, and he loves his country.
Command Sergeant Major Adkins was a technical advisor for the movie, The Green Berets. And in the words of John Wayne: "Courage is being scared to death... and saddling up anyway," and that is what he did, again and again and again throughout his life. John Wayne may have depicted heroic actions in the movies . . . Bennie Adkins lives the courageous service of a real hero, a great professional . . . day in and day out.
Today, at long last, we welcome Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins and Specialist 4 Donald P. Sloat into the Hall of Heroes. We honor their uncommon valor and their courage in combat. Their commitment to our nation and to their fellow Soldiers epitomizes the Army Profession.
The strength of our Nation is our Army. The strength of our Army is our Soldiers and the strength of our Soldiers is our Families. And that's what makes us Army Strong.
Thank you and God Bless you all.