On June 1, 2007, Atkins was leading a team of three soldiers on an observation post on a road near the town of Abu Samak, southwest of Baghdad, when they spotted several Iraqi men acting suspiciously.
After confronting the men, Atkins discovered that one was wearing explosives under his clothing. Atkins immediately tackled the man to prevent him from detonating a suicide vest packed with grenades.
"All of a sudden, I see Travis wrap the guy up and he lifted him up and he slams him to the ground," said Sgt. Sand Aijo who was one of the soldiers with Atkins that day.
"The thing that became confusing is once they hit the ground, the way Travis began positioning his body, it just wasn't, it seemed strange to me," said Aijo. "I didn't know what was going on."
Aijo said that while Atkins was wrestling with the bomber, he saw Atkins position himself between his vehicle and the bomber, "and that's when the detonation happened."
In wrestling him to the ground, Atkins absorbed the force of the blast and saved the lives of his fellow soldiers.
"There is no doubt in my mind that when he dismounted that vehicle and encountered the two individuals, he knew instantaneously that he was dealing with a mortal threat," said retired Col. John Valledor, Atkins's battalion commander at the time.
And that given his experience "he did everything humanly possible physically to ensure that mortal threat did not affect his fellow soldiers."
Aijo agrees noting that the grenades in the suicide vest would have exploded seconds after a pin was pulled.
"He would have seen that it would have been clearly obvious," said Aijo. "He had that split second to make that decision and that was the decision he made, to sacrifice himself so that we could all live."
Atkins at the time had an 11 year old son, who in honor of his fathers service & sacrifice was presented the posthumously Medal of Honor.
"He was the greatest father as well as a soldier," said Oliver.
Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.