Atkins, a native of Montana, was a member of the 10th Mountain Division out of Ft. Drum, NY. He was killed during his second tour of duty in Iraq, aged 31. He had enlisted in the army in November of 2000, and first deployed to Iraq in 2003. He was honorably discharged as a sergeant, and re-enlisted in 2005. He was deployed again in 2006. Exactly a month before he was killed, he was promoted to Staff Sergeant.
On the day he died, Atkins engaged in hand-to-hand combat with an insurgent. When he realized that the insurgent was trying to detonate an explosive vest strapped to his body, Atkins tackled the man and shielded other soldiers from the explosion.
At his funeral Mass at Bozeman’s Resurrection Parish, Fr. Val Zdilla praised Atkins for the heroism displayed in his lact actions on earth.
“Human lives were saved by his heroic action that can never be forgotten or denied,” said Zdilla. He described Atkins as someone who truly lived out his calling in life by serving in the military.
“We now remember Travis and how his life made a difference,” he said. “He was this nation’s son.”
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Atkins was also awarded a Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and Air Assault Badge.
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The Medal of Honor is the highest military honor in the United States, and is reserved for those who have demonstrated “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty.” Atkins will be the fifth person to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during the Iraq War.