I feel like the writer of Hebrews when he wrote, “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets …” – and he then goes on for another couple of hundred words just mentioning other heroes of faith that he didn’t have time to tell about. I know the feeling.
This week’s post comes to you courtesy of Sergeant Major Nathaniel Bowers, a retired Special Forces soldier now pursuing a law degree, who deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of Operation Joint Endeavor, five times to Afghanistan in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Resolute Support, and five times to South America in support of Operation Willing Spirit. I hope to have an opportunity to interview Sgt. Major Bowers and possibly some of his fellow soldiers for future RED posts.
Yesterday was Medal of Honor Day. This Friday’s RED post accordingly begins with an account of Colonel (then Captain) Roger Donlon, the recipient of the first Medal of Honor to be awarded for action in the Vietnam War, and his A-Team.
Colonel Donlon is 87 years old now. He’s one of the last links with the early days of the Vietnam War. The World War One generation is long gone. The World War Two generation is rapidly passing away from us. The Vietnam generation is now walking the same road.
A stark assessment of what it means to be awarded the Medal of Honor is this statement from that link: “238 American soldiers would ultimately be awarded our Nation’s highest honor in that war … 150 of them died in their moment of Valor.”
It was July 5th, 1964, in a Special Forces camp at Nam Dong, Vietnam, roughly 20 miles west of Da Nang, which is on the east coast of Vietnam. A Special Forces A Team under Captain Donlon was working with 311 South Vietnamese and 40 Chinese soldiers to defeat the Viet Cong in that area. The US was still in “advisory mode” in Vietnam at this time, meaning Special Forces was “first in, last out, and always on their own.” No doubt Captain Donlon was well aware of that isolation as he told his team sergeant that evening, “Get everyone buttoned-up tight tonight, the VC are coming. I can feel it.” Others on the team had also seen signs that contact was coming.
At about 2:30 am, the VC started raining mortar fire on Nam Dong. In the first few minutes, Captain Donlon was seriously wounded by three separate mortar rounds as he scrambled from one position to another, one sergeant was dead, the team sergeant was severely wounded, and the ammo bunker was on fire. The concussions had blown away both Captain Donlon’s boots and all his equipment except for his rifle and two magazines. The enemy supplemented the continuing mortar attack with machine gun fire.
Captain Donlon ignored the pain of several serious wounds and “For five hours Captain Donlon moved from position to position, dragging needed supplies and ammo to the defenders of Nam Dong, directing fire, and encouraging his men.” A more detailed account (and believe me there is an incredible amount of “details”) can be found here at PBS North Carolina. I highly recommend that article.
Here’s an excerpt: “[Captain Donlon’s] dynamic leadership, fortitude, and valiant efforts inspired not only the American personnel but the friendly Vietnamese defenders as well and resulted in the successful defense of the camp.”
They lost three of their brothers that night, but “On December 5, 1964, all nine surviving members of Team A-726 joined Captain Donlon in the East Ballroom of the White House as President Lyndon Johnson hung the Medal of Honor around their team leader’s neck.”
Another Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War was Command Sergeant Major Benny Adkins, who served 3 tours in Vietnam. He also earned the “…Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster and ‘V’ Device, the Purple Heart with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters …” and many more. He was a businessman with a Master’s in Education and another in Management from Troy State University. He was married for 59 years. He and his wife had five children. CSM Adkins passed away in April 2020 from covid. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. “Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins distinguished himself during 38 hours of close-combat fighting against enemy forces on March 9 to 12, 1966 … During the 38-hour battle and 48-hours of escape and evasion, Adkins fought with mortars, machine guns, recoilless rifles, small arms, and hand grenades, killing an estimated 135 – 175 of the enemy and sustaining 18 different wounds.”
Folks, that was three and a half days of continuous combat. This man and his fellow soldiers are incredible. Their loyalty to each other and their country is remarkable. Incomparable. Legendary.
It is our duty and our privilege to do our part to make sure that America’s warriors are honored and are not forgotten. There are many whom we will not be able to chronicle here, but we want every American warrior, medals or none, to know that you are remembered by God when everyone but those you love has forgotten you. By the way, I have a message for some of you from God. He says, “You might want to talk to Me long-distance before we meet. It would be terrible for us to meet for the first time as strangers.”