Contributed by Troy Turner
Medal of Honor recipient Bennie G. Adkins, who died in April from complications associated with COVID-19, received a hero’s sendoff and final salute as his body was escorted Monday morning from Opelika to the Atlanta airport in preparation for burial services Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery.
The public was invited to share in the recognition by pausing in silence outside Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home in Opelika or along the route, which proceeded to Interstate 85 and onward to Atlanta.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office supervised the escort, working in conjunction with other Alabama and Georgia law enforcement and first-responder agencies that also participated as an honor guard in tribute to Adkins and his heroic service.
Adkins, who died April 17 at the age of 86, received the Medal of Honor in 2014. The fascinating story of his fight against the enemy and then survival after a horrific battle during the Vietnam War is told in his book, “A Tiger Among Us,” which was co-written by Katie Lamar Jackson, also of Opelika.
Adkins and a small group of American troops were heavily outnumbered and outgunned in the battle, and Adkins is credited with saving the lives of fellow soldiers by helping to lead survivors to escape, despite his own injuries incurred during the fight.
His burial originally was scheduled for earlier this year but was delayed because of concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adkins will be laid to rest Wednesday with full military honors at Arlington, where he will join his wife Mary, who passed away Feb. 12, 2019, and was buried there.
“He has received many accolades and every one is so well deserved,” Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said of Adkins. “Men of his caliber only come along once in a while. The kind of man that you know can be depended upon in tough times.
“Command Sgt. Major Adkins always insisted that the men with whom he served were the real heroes and not himself. The noblest quality of a true leader — placing others before self. That is who Bennie Adkins was.
“I will forever be grateful to have met him. Our nation needs men like him.”
Wednesday’s service will be streamed live at the following link: my.anc.media/3n6k0Ao