President Donald Trump is scheduled to present a Medal of Honor to the family of Iraq War hero Staff Sergeant Travis Atkins in a White House ceremony on Wednesday afternoon.
Atkins, 31, of Bozeman, Montana, was serving his second tour of duty when he saved three fellow soldiers. He used his body as a shield, protecting them from the blast of a suicide bomber in June of 2007.
Per a report issued by the Department of Defense, Atkins and his team were performing a route clearance in a town southwest of Baghdad when they noticed a few men behaving suspiciously. Aware that insurgents were in the area, Atkins reportedly yelled at one of the men, who then began to act strangely.
After ordering the team’s Humvee to pull over, Atkins attempted to search the man. A scuffle ensued, and that was when the sergeant realized the man was wearing a vest equipped with a bomb. Before the man could detonate the bomb, Atkins bear-hugged him and pinned him to the ground, protecting his comrades. Three other soldiers were just a few feet away when the bomb went off.
Atkins’ selfless act saved Michael Kistel, Travis Robertshaw, and Sand Aijo, who praised Atkins’ service in an interview with the Army News Service.
Kistel, who was driving the Humvee, said that the men loved Atkins. Robertshaw, a medic, said that Atkins loved the Army and his country. Aijo, who served with Atkins through much of the deployment, said Atkins was like a tough big brother.
“He always put us above everything else. That’s the kind of person he was,” Aijo said.
Aijo added that he thinks about the day Atkins died all of the time, and tries to live his life to the fullest — as he realizes the sacrifice that was made by the staff sergeant.
Atkins initially received the Distinguished Service Cross award, which was upgraded to the Medal of Honor after a review by the Department of Defense.
Atkins’ parents and his son, Trevor — who was 11 years old when his father died — will receive the honor.
Trump to award posthumous Medal of Honor https://t.co/6jTQT9o1b7— Fox 4 News (@Fox4Now) March 27, 2019
While this is Trump’s eighth Medal of Honor ceremony, this is the first time he will honor a veteran of the Iraq War.
The process of awarding a Medal of Honor takes years, reported The Associated Press. Initial recommendations make their way up the chain of command, which begins at the Pentagon. The service secretary and defense secretary each have authority to disapprove any recommendations that come their way. Once approved by the defense secretary, recommendations are then decided upon by the president.