A soldier from Fort Drum has secured his place in history after being honored as a hero of the highest order as the nation acknowledges his service in a White House ceremony. For the family of the soldier, it was an emotional and painful day to remember.
Sergeant Travis Atkins receives recognition after eleven years
The award comes eleven years after Sergeant Travis Atkins died in Iraq while protecting his unit. His son Trevor Oliver received the Medal of Honor for the service of Sergeant Travis. Prior to the White House Ceremony, Oliver indicated that this was an incredible honor to receive considering his dad served in the military.
In June 2007 while in Iraq, Atkins died in an effort to protect those under his command. He came face to face with a suicide bomber and then sacrificed his life by bear-hugging the attacker and driving him to the ground to shield his team from the bomb blast.
Former Sergeant Sand Aijo recounted the moment indicating he witnessed the heroics of Atkins that ultimately saved his life and the lives of the rest of the unit. Jared Venable, another member of Atkins’ unit, simply could not express how grateful he was to have served with Sergeant Atkins. He said there weren’t words to describe his gratitude considering Atkins was a father figure to him because he was still a boy at the time.
Ceremony evokes family emotions
While speaking about the Sergeant’s recognition, Atkins’ brother in arms indicated that the honor was long overdue. However, Atkins’ parents and son indicated that there was nothing that could compare to the respect that Atkins won from those he served with - not even the Medal of Honor. Travis’ father Jack Atkins stated that it was satisfying to know that the people who served with his son believed in him so much.
The White House ceremony evoked emotions that made the experience bittersweet for Atkins’ family. Although the family feels honored and grateful, the ceremony reopened old wounds that will never heal completely. Travis' mother Elaine acknowledged how painful it was to have lost her son.
Beyond the Medal of Honor itself, the family can find comfort in thinking about the happy memories they shared with Travis while he was alive as well as knowing that their son will forever be remembered for his courageous act that saved the lives of his fellow comrades while serving this great country.