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Soldier who died shielding comrades from Iraq bomber, receives Medal of Honor

It was Trump's eighth Medal of Honor ceremony, the first honoring a veteran of the Iraq war. | AP Photo

Saluting a “fallen hero,” President Donald Trump bestowed the Medal of Honor Wednesday on an American soldier who gave his life to protect three comrades from a suicide bomber in Iraq.

Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, at age 31, died on June 1, 2007, after he tackled an Iraqi insurgent who was trying to detonate his bomb vest; Atkins wrapped himself around the man as the bomb exploded, protecting three colleagues from the blast.

“He put himself on top of the enemy and he shielded his men from certain death,” Trump said during a White House ceremony.

“In his final moments on earth,” Trump said, “Travis did not run.”

In an account of the incident, the Defense Department said, “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.”

Trump presented the Medal of Honor to members of Atkins’ family during the somber ceremony.

It was Trump’s eighth Medal of Honor ceremony, the first honoring a veteran of the Iraq war.

The nation’s highest military commendation, the Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the armed forces who “distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their own lives above and beyond the call of duty,” the White House said.

Born on Dec. 9, 1975, Atkins grew up in Bozeman, Montana, and first joined the Army in 2000, according to the Pentagon. He became an infantry team leader shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in spring 2003.

While he left the service later in 2003, Atkins decided to re-enlist two years later, the Defense Department said. He was promoted to staff sergeant while serving in Iraq in 2007, the year of his death.

Gallatin County, Montana, has declared this to be Staff Sergeant Travis W. Atkins Week.

In a Twitter post, the government said: “The citizens of our county are eternally grateful for his service and sacrifice.”

Read more at usatoday.com.