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President Barack Obama on Monday bestowed the Medal of Honor on two soldiers for their acts of bravery in the Vietnam War.
Congress granted an exemption so Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and Army Spc. Donald P. Sloat could receive the medal, because recommendations typically must be made within two years of the act of heroism, and the medal presented within three.
Obama said even the most extraordinary acts on the battlefield can get lost in the fog of war or the passage of time.
First Lt. Alonzo H. Cushing, a soldier who fought in the Civil War, was expected to receive the Medal of Honor posthumously at a later date. Cushing died in July 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Adkins, who served 22 years and lives in Opelika, Alabama, attended the Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House. Adkins was deployed three times to Vietnam with the Special Forces and was being recognized for actions during his second combat tour, in 1966, when he ran wounded through enemy fire to drag injured comrades to safety.
"Bennie ran into enemy fire again and again to retrieve supplies and ammo, and to carry the wounded to safety," Obama said. "Bennie performed so many acts of bravery we actually don't have time to talk about all of them."
Sloat, of Coweta, Oklahoma, was killed in action on Jan. 17, 1970, at age 20. While on patrol, a soldier in his squad triggered a hand grenade trap that had been placed in their path by enemy forces. According to the White House, Sloat picked up the live grenade, initially to throw it away. When he realized it was about to detonate, he shielded the blast with his own body in order to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
"At that moment he could have run. At that moment he could have ducked for cover, but Don did something truly extraordinary," Obama said.
Sloat's brother, William, accepted the medal from the president Monday.
The Medal of Honor is given to Armed Forces members who risk their lives in acts of great personal bravery.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.