‘He loved us’ — fellow soldiers reflect on Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, the Army’s latest Medal of Honor hero
Described as “selfless,” “a master of his craft,” “the greatest father,” and the kind of leader you’d “want to work for,” Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins gave his life on June 1, 2007, when he tackled a suicide bomber to protect his soldiers from the blast in Iraq.
On the day before Atkins is to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor, Atkin’ battle brothers and family gathered on Tuesday to recount his successes as the father, son, leader, and friend that they knew.
Former Army Sgt. Jared Venable was 18 years old, fresh out of basic training, and scared out his mind when he went to join Atkins’ platoon in Iraq in 2006.
“I was 18 years old — well frankly, I was just really scared, and they told me to go see my new team leader, Sgt. Atkins, and I did,” Venable, now retired, told reporters at a roundtable on Tuesday. “He made me feel like there was a chance, and that…I could trust him, there was somebody there that knew what they were doing.”
“I remember one time we were sitting on the roof, somewhere in Iraq, and I remember just thinking, ‘I have so much respect for him,'” Venable said. “It was kind of akin to being star-struck when he talked to you, you know?”
For retired Col. John Valledor, who was Atkins’ Battalion Commander at the time and the person who submitted his original Medal of Honor recommendation, the thing that struck him most about Atkins came one day after his team’s Humvee was destroyed by an IED.
Valledor said the way that Atkins responded — joking with his soldiers and not dwelling on what had just happened to them — proved the kind of leader he was.
“He used humor at that moment to deflect the pain …read more
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