COON RAPIDS, Minn. (FOX 9) - It was a surreal experience for 22-year-old Trevor Oliver when he first received a phone call from the President of the United States inviting him to accept the Congressional Medal of Honor for his father’s heroic actions.
Oliver says it’s a moment he’ll treasure forever.
“It was never about a medal,” he said. “It was always about my dad’s story and the men’s story that surrounded him.”
Oliver’s father was always a hero in his eyes, but few knew about the ultimate sacrifice Staff Sergeant Travis Atkins made more than a decade ago - until now.
The 22-year-old was invited to the White House to accept the military’s highest decoration for bravery: The Medal of Honor. He accepted it for his father who died in June 2007.
“Today, the name of Staff Sergeant Travis Atkins will be etched alongside the names of America’s bravest warriors and written into America’s heart,” said President Trump.
Oliver was only 11 years old when his father threw himself on a suspected Iraqi insurgent who was about to detonate his suicide vest.
His selfless actions saved three of his fellow army teammates. Those men attended the Medal of Honor Ceremony to remember Staff Sergeant Atkins.
Oliver was able to spend time with them afterwards and learned about his father’s selfless heart.
“This brought us all together and gave us a really big healing moment,” Trump added.
Oliver remembers his father as someone who always made others laugh and deeply cared for those around him.
“Loving, passionate, but he had a tough exterior as well,” Oliver said. “He was a soldier.”
Called the ideal soldier by fellow warriors and military leaders, Atkins re-enlisted in the army in December 2005.
“I think he felt a little bit guilty not being with the men he had been with in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I think he wanted to go back to them and be with his brothers,” Oliver said.
But at only 31 years old, Atkins gave his life so others could go on to live theirs. He sacrificed watching his young son grow up and accomplishing his dreams, but then again, that the true soldier was always within him.
“I hope I’m half the man he is and I hope he’s looking down on me and just proud,” Oliver said.
Atkins was also officially inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.
Oliver will be recognized during Monday night’s NCAA Championship Game during the halftime ceremony with his father’s Medal of Honor.