March 27 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump presented fallen Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins with a posthumous Medal of Honor on Wednesday, recognizing his efforts serving in Iraq.
Atkins died saving the lives of three of his fellow soldiers while deployed to Iraq on June 1, 2007. His 22-year-old son, Travis Oliver, and parents, John Atkins and Elaine Atkins, accepted the nation's highest medal of honor on his behalf.
Oliver took the stage to remember Atkins as a "great soldier and a great father" and thanked his father's fellow soldiers for offering their praise for him.
"The medal is something that I take a lot of pride in, but it's the words that are the real prize," he said.
Trump recounted Atkins' achievements and praised his love for the Army, before presenting his family with the medal.
"We can never measure the depth of our gratitude or full magnitude of your loss but we can pay everlasting tribute to Staff Sergeant Travis Atkins his truly immortal act of valor," Trump said.
Atkins, 31, died more than a decade ago while his unit performed a routine clearance of Abu Samak, a town southwest of Baghdad, the Department of Defense said. The team noticed two suspicious men trying to cross the road they were securing.
Atkins, knowledgeable of reports of insurgents in the area, yelled from his Humvee at the suspicious men who began to act erratically.
After pulling over his vehicle, Atkins attempted to search one of the men who resisted and the two began to fight.
During the altercation, Atkins became aware that the man had a bomb strapped to his body and was attempting to detonate it.
"Without pausing, Atkins bear-hugged the man from behind, threw him to the ground and pinned him there, shielding his fellow soldiers who were only a few feet away," the Pentagon said.
He died from the ensuing blast but his actions saved the lives of his teammates.
"He saved my life and the life of several others," said former Army Sgt. Sand Aijo who was with Atkins that day. "I would not be here today without him."
Trump praised Atkins for his brave sacrifice and quick action that saved the lives of his troops.
"In his final moments on earth, Travis did not run, he didn't know what it was to run. He did not hesitate. He rose to the highest calling. He laid down his life to save the lives of his fellow warriors," Trump said. "In so doing, he embodied the deepest meaning of the motto of the 10th Mountain Division: He 'climbed to glory.'"
For his deed, Atkins was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 2008 but was upgraded to the Medal of Honor following a Department of Defense review that began in 2016 of combat awards given out following Sept. 11, 2001.
Oliver said the award means a lot to him and that his father "truly" deserves it.
"I want him to be remembered as the best father that anyone could ask for, and also at the same time being the best soldier that anyone could ask for," Oliver said.
"He was my icon," he said.