President Trump awarded a posthumous medal of honor Wednesday to Army Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins for his bravery in tackling an insurgent who triggered a suicide vest in Iraq in 2007.
Atkins’ decision to give himself up saved three fellow soldiers.
“He shielded his men from certain death,” Mr. Trump said. “The terrorist detonated his suicide vest, and Travis was instantly killed. In his final moments on earth, Travis did not run. He didn’t know what it was to run.”
Atkins’ son, Trevor Oliver, accepted the medal during a formal ceremony in the White House East Room.
He thanked his dad’s fellow soldiers, saying their camaraderie and praise for his father meant the world to him.
“It’s the words that are the real prize,” he said.
The medal is the military’s highest decoration. It is awarded to those who’ve demonstrated conspicuous gallantry by risking their own lives, above and beyond the call of duty, while combating a U.S. enemy or fighting alongside a foreign ally.
Atkins’ medal was the eighth that Mr. Trump has bestowed during his tenure.
On June 1, 2007, Atkins and fellow soldiers were dispatched to deal with suspected terrorists near an intersection in the Iraqi city where they were stationed. The men acted strangely and resisted a search, resulting in hand-to-hand combat with one of the men.
While attempting to subdue him, Atkins realized one of the men was trying to detonate a bomb attached to his body, according to the White House.
Atkins put the insurgent, who’d reached to trigger the vest, in a bear hug on the ground, using his body to shield other members of his team. He was 31 years old.
Atkins grew up on a Montana farm. He loved to camp, hunt, fish and race snowmobiles, and he worked as a painter and mechanic before enlisting in the Army in 2000.
After basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, he told his parents it was the best time he’d had in his life.
“In other words, he loved it,” Mr. Trump said.
Atkins deployed to Iraq in 2003 and was honorably discharged as a sergeant. After enrolling at the University of Montana, he reenlisted in 2005.
“The fact is, he was bored,” Mr. Trump said. “He wanted back in.” He was deployed again to Iraq in 2006 and promoted to staff sergeant on May 1, 2007.
At the time of his death, he served as part of Company D, 2d Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, according to the White House.
Besides his son, Atkins is survived by his parents, John and Elaine Atkins of Bozeman, Montana. They attended the ceremony, along with the three soldiers who survived in Iraq because of Atkins actions.
“We can never measure the true depth of our gratitude or the full magnitude of your loss, but we can pay everlasting tribute to Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins,” Mr. Trump said.