BOZEMAN - A Montana man will receive the Medal of Honor after being killed in the line of duty while serving in Iraq. Bozeman’s Travis Atkins was killed in 2007 during an attack by insurgents.
Later this month, his family will join President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., where they’ll receive the Medal of Honor on his behalf.
Only 3,400 Americans have been awarded the Medal of Honor in 158 years. The U.S. Army defines its recipients as the bravest of the brave, and their courage must be well-documented.
For Staff Sergeant Atkins, it was.
Atkins was killed June 1, 2007 in Abu Samak, Iraq while serving in the Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign. His squad was conducting security when they came across two insurgents acting suspiciously. After approaching the two, Atkins noticed one of the men had explosives under his clothes. He was able to push the man away from his comrades and fight him to the ground. Atkins then threw himself on top of the man, using his body as a shield and saving the lives of three other U.S. soldiers at the scene. He was mortally wounded in the explosion.
The University of Montana alumnus was just 31 years old, leaving behind 11-year-old son Trevor Oliver.
“Travis knew the reality of serving in Iraq,” says his father, John Atkins, in the U.S. Army video commemorating his son. “He knew the danger.”
“I take anything I can and I try to turn it positive,” says Oliver, now in his early 20s, in a U.S. Army tribute. “You know, I take… yes, my dad’s gone and that’s hard. But you know, it’s the fact that what he did is so extreme and that moves me even more.”
Atkins served with the Delta Company, 14th Infantry Regiment, and the Tenth Mountain Division and deployed for two tours. He was also awarded military’s second highest honor for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross. After a Secretary of Defense-mandated review, the Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor that he’ll receive later this month.
“He was my icon…” says Oliver. “My true treasure is what people say about him, and that’s what… that’s what makes me the most proud.”
There’s been a push by the Bozeman community to name the city’s second high school after Staff Sergeant Atkins, but as of right now, it looks like that won’t turn out.
Atkins will be honored at the White House on March 27, 2019. Son Trevor Oliver and Atkins’ family will be there to receive the decoration.
“It means the world to me, the Medal of Honor,” explains Oliver. “It’s the biggest one. I can’t thank, you know, everyone enough, y’know, for the support and everything that they’ve done to give him that. Because he did truly deserve it.”