“Staff Sergeant Atkins’ heroic actions, at the cost of his life, saved the lives of three of his teammates,” according to the release, when he tried to thwart a suicide bomb while deployed to Iraq in 2007.
Atkins was patrolling near Abu Sarnak with D Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, according to his award citation, when his squad detained and began to search a group of suspected insurgents.
“However, one insurgent resisted and engaged Staff Sergeant Atkins in hand-to-hand combat,” the citation said. “As Staff Sergeant Atkins attempted to subdue the man, he realized the insurgent was attempting to trigger a suicide vest which he wore under his clothing.”
Atkins tackled the bomber, pinning him to the ground and trying to shield his own soldiers from the blast. He was originally posthumously awarded the DSC for his actions.
It was Atkins’ second deployment to Iraq, on his second enlistment. He had originally joined the Army in November 2000, getting out in 2003 after one deployment with the 101st Airborne Division, according to the White House release.
He went back on active duty in 2005, the release said, after returning home to Montana to attend college,
In addition to Atkins’ award, the Army has in recent months approved a dozen upgrades of Silver Stars to Distinguished Service Crosses, the result of a 2016 Global War on Terror valor award review.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT