Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins posthumously awarded Medal of Honor for shielding a suicide bomber in Iraq.

Photo by Katie Lange

Medal of Honor awarded to soldier who wrapped his body around a suicide bomber

March 27, 2019 - 5:14 pm

An American soldier wrapped his body around a suicide bomber in Iraq absorbing the blast and saving the lives of three of his teammates. 

On Wednesday, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor. 

Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins was 31 years old when he died on June 1, 2007. It was his son’s 11th birthday. 

Army Sgt. Travis Atkins with his parents, Jack and Elaine, during a visit to see him at Fort Drum, N.Y., in 2006.
Photo courtesy of the Atkins family

Atkins, along with three other soldiers, responded to a report of suspicious activity near an intersection in a town southwest of Baghdad. After exiting his Humvee, Atkins began searching an Iraqi man who resisted. 

Engaged in hand to hand combat, Atkins tussled to get the suspected insurgent’s arms behind his back when he realized he was wearing a suicide vest. Immediately, Atkins wrapped his arms and body around him throwing them both to the ground protecting three other U.S. soldiers from the coming explosion.

Atkins was killed instantly. 

“In his final moments on earth, Travis did not run, he didn’t know what it was to run,” President Donald Trump said at a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday. “He did not hesitate, he rose to the highest calling, he laid down his life to save the lives of his fellow warriors.” 

In doing so, Trump added, Atkins “embodied the deepest meaning of the motto of the 10th Mountain Division, he climbed to glory.” 

Atkins was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, but the Pentagon began a review of all medals awarded during the Iraq War in 2016. A few weeks ago, officials announced Atkins would receive the military’s highest possible honor. 

His son, Trevor, accepted the medal on his father’s behalf.

Trevor said it was “surreal” and that he hadn’t “fully accepted” the reality quite yet. 

He also said he had “all over appreciation” for the men who served with his father.

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“Everything you have said to me over the last few days has meant the world to me,” he said. 

“The medal is something that I take a lot of pride in, but it’s the words that are the real prize." 

A Montana native, Atkins joined the Army in 2000 and was a part of the 2003 invasion of Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division; he left the military later that year. 

But after two years, he re-enlisted and again deployed to Iraq, this time with 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division in 2006. He was promoted to Staff Sgt. just a month before his death. 

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His home county in Montana, Gallatin, tweeted that this week is in Atkins’ honor.  

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