18 Mar Vietnam War hero from Opelika receives military statue tribute

Here at Big Statues, whenever we hear news of the unveiling of a new military statue on these shores, we cannot help but be full of admiration for the honored, such is our respect for their service to our country. The situation is no different with regard to the bronze sculpture depicting Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins.

This creation, shown to a large crowd at the Opelika Sportsplex, references a three-day stretch from almost exactly 49 years ago, which saw Adkins leading an intense battle during the Vietnam War against North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers at Camp A Shau, as he rescued his fellow troops.

The 81-year old Retired Command Sgt. Major couldn’t help but be extremely humble in his response to such a tribute, commenting: “The bottom line is I’m very thankful. Who would believe an old Special Forces grunt like me would attract a standing ovation?”

The primary residence of the new military statue will be Opelika City Hall, where it is sure to remind all who view it of the fearless service of one of the Alabama city’s true greats of recent times. As Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller observed, “certainly it’s rare for a community to have a real, live American hero, and that’s what Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins is.”

He continued: “To have him in our community and for him to be as accessible as he is, and for this bronze statue to be at home in Opelika … it’s great and it’s a wonderful, wonderful story of valor, honor, bravery and courage. To be able to be around Bennie, it’s just an inspiration to me and to many, many people.”

Designing the statue was Oklahoma sculptor Craig Campbell, who admitted that the statue was the most challenging one that he had ever taken on. He added that Adkins had also requested that the masterwork focus not on him, but instead on the feats of those with whom he fought during the conflict.

Campbell said: “To me, every sculpture tells a story. The story this one tells is very, very special. (Adkins’ story) moved me on levels that I don’t even understand. When I started sculpting it, I didn’t stop. I didn’t take breaks; I didn’t sleep; I didn’t eat. My friends had to pull me off the project and tell me this is done, and I told them it’s not. It’s such a special, real story and it had to be told properly. The greatest challenge of this piece was how to tell such an epic tale in one frozen moment.”

There could surely be no better note on which to end than that of Adkins himself, who commented: “This is a super humbling experience to share with family and friends. But the honor should not go to me. It should go to the 16 American soldiers who served with me, and especially the five who did not make it back.”

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