Montana delegation works to rename VA clinic for Travis Atkins

Montana’s federal lawmakers are moving ahead with their effort to rename the Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Bozeman after local Medal of Honor recipient and Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins.

Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester and Rep. Greg Gianforte sent a letter on Tuesday to the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee asking that he advance the bill that would rename the clinic.

“On behalf of Montana’s service members, veterans, family members and citizens, we write to express the unanimous support of the Montana congressional delegation for the designation of one Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities after a veteran who served our nation with valor and distinction,” they wrote.

Statements of support from local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Disabled American Veterans accompanied the letter.

The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and the House Subcommittee on Health are now considering the bill that would name the clinic the Travis W. Atkins Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic. By sending a letter to the Senate committee, Montana’s delegation hopes to push forward their proposal. Gianforte is also working on the House side to advance the bill, his spokesperson said.

President Donald Trump gave Atkins, 31, a posthumous Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for battlefield valor, in March.

Atkins attended Bozeman High School and his parents still live in Gallatin County. He died in 2007 during his second tour in Iraq while fighting a suspected Iraqi insurgent near Baghdad. When he realized the insurgent was trying to detonate a suicide bomb, he wrapped himself around the man and threw him to the ground. His action saved three nearby soldiers from the explosion.

In 2008, Atkins was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, which was revised to the Medal of Honor after a Defense Department review.

In March, Daines, Tester and Gianforte introduced the bill to rename Bozeman’s Department of Veterans Affairs clinic. They have said they hope the clinic, located at 300 N. Willson Ave., will act as a memorial and a reminder of Atkins’ service.

“Sgt. Atkins is an American hero, who paid the ultimate sacrifice to save the life of his fellow soldiers on the battlefield,” said Tester, the ranking member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, in an emailed statement. “Our nation owes a great debt of gratitude for his heroic actions, and I can think of no better way to honor him — and his legacy— than right here at home.”