WAURIKA, OK (KSWO) - A southwest Oklahoma man who received one of the nation's highest military awards was honored Thursday by the town that he says helped raise him.
Bennie Adkins graduated from Waurika High School in 1951, and then served his country in the Vietnam War. He was presented with the Medal of Honor in 2014 for his actions there. Thursday, they held the first-ever "Bennie Adkins Day" in Waurika.
This afternoon, Adkins shared his story with students from Waurika middle school and high school. He then traveled just up the road with a police escort to cut the ribbon for the grand opening of Veteran's Park, which will memorialize all those who have served our country.
Adkins was drafted in 1956 and served in the Army for 22 years with 13 of those years being dedicated to service as a Green Beret. In 1966, he was sent to Vietnam, where he was assigned to a special forces camp in what was known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail
"We were attacked by North Vietnamese forces and after a 38-hour battle our headquarters ordered us to evacuate the camp," Adkins said. "When this happened they attempted a helicopter rescue, but there were no helicopters available so we had to hit the jungle."
Adkins said they then spent 48 hours in the jungle before they could ultimately be rescued. Because of his actions, he was recommended for the Medal of Honor, but there was one small problem.
"So much of the information that is now unclassified was then classified," Adkins said. "I was fortunate enough to receive the second highest award and I wore that for 48 years."
Until one night in 2014, when Adkins said he received a call from someone he never expected.
"I didn't know who it was going to be. The Pentagon told me it would be a high government official calling me at a certain time, that government official happened to be the president. The president was on the phone," Adkins said.
So Adkins went to the White House and received his Medal of Honor, which is an experience that he says is like no other.
"It's such a humbling experience based upon the fact that at that time period more than 30 million had served this country with honor and distinction and now there's 77 living Medal of Honor recipients," Adkins said. "Being one of those is super, super humbling."
Now, Adkins travels around the country, speaking to people of all ages sending them one simple message.
"Be the best they can be, whatever they desire to be."
In his speech at Veterans Park on Thursday, Adkins also announced that next year the Bennie Adkins Foundation will be awarding a $1,000 scholarship to one Waurika student.