BOZEMAN- President Donald Trump presented Wednesday the Medal of Honor posthumously to Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins, who was killed in Iraq in 2007 tackling a suicide bomber and saving three of his fellow soldiers.
The Medal of Honor is the most prestigious award in the U.S. Military. Friends of Atkins said they aren’t surprised that he gave his life to save others because that’s the type of person he was.
From the third grade up until Atkins lost his life, he and Bozeman resident Jeff Krogstad were best friends.
“It’s something that I can’t really put into words. It’s something that’s surreal and I still haven’t fully accepted it yet,” Krogstad said.
“He was very strong-willed. He took a lot of risks that I wouldn’t take in my lifetime,” he added. “The biggest thing is, he had a big heart. He really cared about who we are. As a kid growing up with hearing aids, it made it really easy for me to become friends with Travis because it was tough for me to be able to go make new friends. But Travis had no problem. He didn’t see the handicap. He saw me as a person.”
Having Atkins as a friend meant more to Krogstad than Atkins ever knew.
“I’m not surprised he went back [to Iraq]. I’m proud that he went back because that’s where he belonged. There’s an impact you can make on life that you can only make on a battlefield, and that’s where he belonged. He belonged out there, and I think that’s what he truly believed,” said Krogstad.
With tears in his eyes, Krogstad reflected on their friendship and the time they spent in the mountains together. But it’s an emotional roller coaster losing a friend that he is so proud of for his actions.
“It’s an emotion you can’t describe. There’s pride and there’s sadness. You feel sad for the Atkins family and what they’ve had to go through, but there’s pride,” he said.
Local veterans are also honored to have one of their own become a Medal of Honor hero.
“I am proud of him. I never met Travis and I don’t know him. I just know that I am so proud that he was an Army guy just like me, so we’re brothers,” said Vietnam War veteran George Morales.
“He did it saving other guys in his platoon, and that’s what makes a big difference. He didn’t just do it for himself. He did it for our country, for God, and saving his guys,” added Morales.
The community plans to welcome home the Atkins family on Friday afternoon along Airway Boulevard a little after 3 p.m. Anyone interested in taking part is welcome.
Click here to see a report on CBS News about the ceremony.
Story by Emma Hamilton, MTN News