About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "A Tiger Among Us: A Story of Valor in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley"

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
July 18, 2018

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through YouTube.

Today’s discussion of A Tiger Among Us: A Story of Valor in Vietnam’s A Shau Valley is one of several programs related to our “Remembering Vietnam” exhibit, which you can see upstairs in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery.

Before we get started with today’s program, I’d like to encourage you to return for two other programs coming soon in the McGowan Theater.

On Friday, July 20, at noon, we will present a selection of archival films from the motion picture holdings of the National Archives. This will be the third program in our film series relating to our current special exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam.”

And next week, on Tuesday, July 24, at noon, journalist and author Kate Andersen Brower will discuss her latest book, First in Line: Presidents, Vice Presidents, and the Pursuit of Power, which explores the lives and roles of 13 modern Vice Presidents. A book signing will follow the program.

Check our website or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Pick up your application for membership in the lobby or become a member online at archivesfoundation.org.

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Now I ask all Vietnam veterans or any United States veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the period of November 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975, to stand and be recognized.

Veterans, as you exit the McGowan Theater after tonight’s program, National Archives staff and volunteers will present each of you with the Vietnam Veteran Lapel Pin. On the back of the pin is embossed:

“A Grateful Nation Thanks and Honors You.”

The United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration is a national initiative, and the lapel pin is the nation’s lasting memento of thanks.

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As I mentioned earlier, this program is related to our special exhibit, “Remembering Vietnam.” For this exhibit our curatorial staff combed through National Archives records here and across the country to find the documents that tell the stories recounted in the 12 episodes of the exhibit.

One of the most powerful features of “Remembering Vietnam” is hearing the voices of veterans, giving visitors a first-hand account of their experiences during the war. Since the exhibit opened last November, we have heard from many veterans here, sharing their own stories on this stage and even from the audience.

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Today we are privileged to hear from Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins.

Command Sergeant Major Bennie G. Adkins was drafted into the United States Army on December 5, 1956, at the age of 22, from Waurika, Oklahoma. After attending Airborne School, he volunteered for Special Forces in 1961 and served with them for more than 13 years.

While in the Special Forces, he deployed to the Republic of Vietnam for three non-consecutive tours: in 1963, 1965 to 1966, and 1971.

During his second tour, in March 1966, a North Vietnamese force attacked Sergeant Adkins’s small unit at Camp A Shau. It was during that engagement that Adkins distinguished himself in actions for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest award bestowed on an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.

After Vietnam, Adkins served as First Sergeant for the Army Garrison Communications Command in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and then attended the Army Sergeants Major Academy in El Paso, Texas. After graduation, Adkins served with the Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and then led training at Fort Sherman's Jungle School in the Panama Canal Zone. He retired from the Army in 1978.

Adkins earned his bachelor's degree and two master's degrees from Troy State University. He also established the Adkins Accounting Service, Inc., serving as its CEO for 22 years, and taught night classes at Alabama's Southern Union Junior College for 10 years, and at Auburn University for six years.

Adkins’s many awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star Medal with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, and the Purple Heart with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters.

Today’s moderator, Katie Lamar Jackson, is a writer, editor, and photographer with more than 30 years of experience as a journalist, book author, communicator, and public relations and marketing specialist. She has worked for or with a wide array of clients such as CNN, Ortho Books, the Southern Progress Corporation, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and major public universities, as well as myriad regional and national magazines, web developers, publishers, public and private agencies, and nonprofits.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Bennie Adkins and Katie Lamar Jackson.