Travis Atkins

In this Chronicle file photo, Elaine Atkins holds a photo of her son, Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, 31, who was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq.

Gallatin County may soon be home to the Montana Medal of Honor Highway.

Senate Bill 268, which passed the Senate 48-2 and had a hearing before the House Transportation Committee on Friday, would designate the Montana section of U.S. Highway 20 as a memorial to Montanans who have received a Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award.

The highway spans Gallatin County from the Idaho border at Targhee Pass to the Wyoming border in Yellowstone National Park and would include signs and plaques commemorating Montana’s Medal of Honor recipients — William Galt, John McLennon, John Moran, Laverne Parrish, Leo Powers, Donald Ruhl, Henry Schauer and Cornelius Smith.

“As Montanans and Americans, it’s important that we remember the sacrifices of those that have served our nation and those … that have gone above the call of duty. Their service, sacrifice and gallantry are what have helped ensure our freedom and should not be forgotten,” said Sen. Kenneth Bogner, R-Miles City, who is sponsoring the bill with Rep. Wylie Galt, R-Martinsdale, to the House Transportation Committee.

“Let’s have a reminder and educate future generations by dedicating this portion of Highway 20 to them.”

The bill stipulates that future Medal of Honor recipients would be added to the memorial, including Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins of Bozeman who was killed in Iraq in 2007 and whose family will receive his award from President Donald Trump at a White House ceremony on March 27.

Atkins, 31, died during his second tour in Iraq when he shielded his fellow soldiers from a suicide bomber attack, saving three lives.

“Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins represents the very best of Montana. He volunteered to serve this country during a time of war and he paid the ultimate sacrifice to save his fellow soldiers,” said U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, in a news release this week. “Our nation is forever grateful for his courageous and selfless actions on the battlefield and this highest honor will guarantee that his bravery will never be forgotten.”

Shortly after Trump announced the award, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, praised Atkins on Twitter.

“Sgt. Atkins paid the ultimate sacrifice for his fellow soldiers and our nation,” he said. “I’m proud he’s receiving our nation’s highest honor in his memory.”

The designation of U.S. Highway 20 as a Medal of Honor Highway has been a multi-state effort led by the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Bogner said. A handful of states have already designated stretches of the road as a memorial, while others have bills similar to Senate Bill 268 pending before their legislatures.

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