Medal of Honor recipient Bennie G. Adkins, 86, is fighting for his life after recently testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit home,” a post on The Bennie Adkins Foundation’s Facebook page stated Thursday, March 26. “Bennie has been hospitalized and is critically ill with COVID-19 respiratory failure. We ask for your thoughts and prayers.”
The Bennie Adkins Foundation aims to carry on the legacy of Adkins by providing educational scholarships to Special Forces soldiers, according to the nonprofit’s website.
Medal of Honor Host City Program Board President Tommy Moore said Adkins was planning on attending this year’s Medal of Honor Week before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled this year’s events. Adkins first traveled to Gainesville for the program in 2015, according to an archived Register report.
The Vietnam veteran had recently traveled and returned ill, according to a report published by the Opelika-Auburn News. He was admitted to the hospital and reportedly recovered “fairly quickly.” The newspaper reports Adkins was sent home before he took a turn “for the worst” and was readmitted.
In an Opelika-Auburn News interview with Adkins’ son Keith, it was reported that Adkins is in the intensive care unit at East Alabama Medical Center in his hometown of Opelika, Alabama.
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. It first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China. As of press time Friday, March 27, there were 571 reported cases of COVID-19 in Alabama along with four deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. In Texas, there were 1,798 reported cases and 24 deaths. The university statistics also showed there were 100,717 reported cases of COVID-19 nationwide and 1,544 reported deaths as of press time. There were no reported cases in Cooke County as of Friday afternoon.
Adkins was awarded his Medal of Honor from then-president Barack Obama on Sept. 15, 2014, for his actions while serving in the U.S. Army during Vietnam on March 9, 1966.
Adkins “rushed through intense enemy fire and manned a mortar position continually adjusting fire for the camp, despite incurring wounds as the mortar pit received several direct hits from enemy mortars,” his ceremonial citation states.
It also states that “during a 38-hour battle and 48 hours of escape and evasion waiting for a second evacuation helicopter, fighting with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms and hand grenades, it was estimated Adkins killed up to 175 of the enemy while sustaining 18 different wounds to his body.”
Moore said Thursday evening that board members discussed the COVID-19 situation during a special meeting that same day.
“Considering the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, we reluctantly are canceling the 2020 MOHHC event,” Moore said. “Since one of our MOH recipients has been hit with this awful virus it is the right thing to do. Our program will be praying for our nation and our leaders as we navigate this time. We look forward to preparing for our 20th anniversary April 7-10, 2021.”
Follow the Gainesville Daily Register online for updates throughout the day as the situation surrounding the new coronavirus is developing.