An Army staff sergeant who saved three soldiers from the blast of an Iraqi suicide bomber by turning himself into a human shield will be memorialized when President Donald Trump presents the service member’s family with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award for bravery against an enemy.
Wednesday will be the eighth time Trump presents the honor. It’s one of the few he regularly gives out.
Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, 31, of Bozeman, Montana, was trying to subdue the suspected insurgent in June 2007 when he realized the man was attempting to detonate a bomb strapped to his body. Atkins then covered the bomber’s body with his in a selfless act that officials said spared three soldiers. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq and overseeing a 15-soldier squad at the time of his death, one month after he was promoted to staff sergeant.
Atkins’ initial award, the Distinguished Service Cross, was upgraded to the Medal of Honor after a Defense Department review. His son, Trevor, and parents will represent him at a White House ceremony Wednesday afternoon.
Trump can recognize individuals for a variety of contributions to society, including to the arts, the humanities and to science and technology. But the Medal of Honor is the one Trump, who avoided military service but advocates for service members and veterans, regularly gives out.
“America is the greatest force for peace, justice and freedom the world has ever known because of you and people like you,” Trump said at the October ceremony for retired Marine Sgt. Maj. John Canley , who, at age 80, is the most recent medal recipient.
“There are very few. There are very few. Brave people, but very, very few like you, John,” Trump said. Canley’s heroism during the Vietnam War included twice scaling a hospital wall in view of the enemy to help extract wounded Marines.