By Fred Woods
Opelika Medal of Honor recipient Command Sergeant Major (ret.) Bennie D. Adkins’ latest honor took place at the Opelika Sportsplex last Saturday morning when a bronze statue of then-SFC Adkins in action at Camp A Shau, Vietnam in March of 1966 was unveiled before several hundred of Adkins’ family, friends and grateful admirers.
The statue was designed and executed by Oklahoma sculptor Craig Campbell who was also the principal speaker at Saturday’s ceremony. The sculpture, whose first casting is on display at a park dedicated to retired CSM Adkins’ honor in his original hometown of Waurika, Okla., will be permanently displayed at Opelika’s City Hall, and will, from time to time, be loaned out for temporary display at appropriate locations such as Auburn University’s ROTC department, the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning and similar sites.
The Auburn Fire Division’s Color Guard presented the Colors, and the Opelika High School Ovations and Men’s Choir sang the benediction and several patriotic selections, including James Ruffin’s inspirational rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”
Campbell told his audience that every sculpture has a story, which must be inspiring and engaging to the viewer. His challenge in the case of the Adkins sculpture, Campbell said, “was how to capture, in one frozen moment of time” the essence of Bennie’s heroism at A Chau.
The sculpture shows Adkins, his rifle strapped to his shoulder, sawed-off shotgun in hand, with a wounded fellow soldier on his back. The wounded companion, Wayne Murray, was present Saturday morning for the ceremony.
Mayor Gary Fuller, Master of Ceremonies for the event, said of the sculpture, “It’s a wonderful story of valor, honor, bravery and courage.” Even more important, Fuller said, was to have Adkins in our community and as accessible to it as he is. “To be able to be around Bennie is just an inspiration to me and many, many others in the Opelika community.”
Adkins, accompanied by his wife Mary and attended by his children, was his typical “aw shucks” self. “This is a super humbling experience to share with family and friends.”