Our view: Thank a veteran? Go an extra step

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Monday is Veterans Day. That’s the special day we have designated to thank all the men and women who have served our country in its armed services. Not just the heroes, but everyone who has served, from company clerk to forward observer.

But it is an appropriate time to honor one of our local heroes. One who has been shortchanged in terms of the recognition he was due.

Heroes don’t do their acts of bravery for recognition. Indeed, most acts of bravery are known only to a few.

But when we have a formal system for recognition, and a hero is nominated for an award that all agree he/she has earned, he/she ought to get that award. Some general, sitting at his desk, ought not to decide that the “quota” for that action has already been met. Heroism isn’t subject to quotas, general.

Yet that is what happened to Opelika’s Cmd. Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Bennie Adkins.

Here are a few sentences excerpted from his nomination for the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest award for heroism in combat: “ … (an enemy regiment) launched its main attack. Within two hours, (then SFC) Adkins was the only man firing a mortar and although wounded with most of his team killed or wounded, he fought off the waves of attacking (enemy). Adkins and the small group of remaining soldiers were ordered to evacuate their camp. … They fought their way out of the camp and evaded (the enemy) for two days until they were rescued.”

Gen. Westmoreland reportedly decided that the sector had already received its “share” of Congressional Medals, and Bennie received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s number two award, instead.

That’s great, and Benny is not unappreciative. But if the action warranted a CMH on its own merits then that’s what he should have received.

Steps are being taken to remedy this injustice. A bill, H.R. 3304, which would award the Medal of Honor to Bennie and one other hero, caught in a similar situation, has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is currently assigned to the Senate Armed Services Committee, where no action has been scheduled. It should be promptly reviewed and reported out to the full Senate where it ought to pass.

Alabama’s Sen. Sessions is the third ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. Please call or contact Sen. Sessions and urge him to actively support Benny’s bill, H.R. 3304. His Washington office number is (202) 224-4124. Sessions also has offices in Montgomery and Dothan. These phone numbers are (334) 244-7017 and (334) 792-4924, respectively.

This Veterans Day lets go beyond the usual “thank you.” Let’s help get Bennie’s medal for him.

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