Staff Sargent Travis Mills suffered the loss of all four limbs to an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) in Afghanistan; subsequently, Travis founded the Travis Mills Foundation to help struggling veterans adapt to post-war life. SSG Mills goes on to gain support from many influential people including President Donald Trump, Ellen DeGeneres, Sylvester Stallone, and many more. A story such as this is often overlooked in the textbooks of military history. It is not a story of a well-known battle such as Bull Run or Operation Neptune (D-Day), but it is a story of the never-ending battles that individual veterans fight after coming home. In a time of epidemics such as veteran suicide, VA hospital staff being spread too thin, and PTSD, SSG Mills has become a hero in the personal battles of many veterans nationwide.
Many of this nation’s heroes do not face their worst trials in the physical war-zone. For many soldiers, the war-zone follows them home and takes on a new form. Soldiers regularly bring injuries, PTSD, and depression home while leaving loved ones and limbs behind. Staff Sargent Travis Mills is one of five quadruple amputees to survive from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather than giving up, SSG Mills would live by his personal motto, “never give up, never quit”, and continue to establish the Travis Mills Foundation to assist other veterans who have lost mobility and struggle in their day to day lives.
Travis Mills grew up in the small farm town of Vassar, Michigan where he graduated class of 2005 from Vassar High School. Mills was one of the many soldiers who enlisted directly from high school, ready to come to the nation’s defense as the sting of the attacks on September 11, 2001 was still felt by many. Mills had enlisted into the United States Army 82nd Airborne Division. In Mill’s three tours of duty in the 82nd Airborne, he would rise to the rank of E-6 (Staff Sargent or SSG) and be awarded the purple heart and bronze star medals. His third and final tour in Afghanistan turned sour as he stepped on and triggered an IED. Following his recovery, he wanted to help others who had to live with injuries and ailments from war. The Travis Mills foundation included veteran’s retreats where injured veterans and their families would be able to visit for a week to relax, learn how to go about everyday life, and even learn a new skill or hobby that they may have thought impossible from the injuries.
Recently, the state of the US veteran population has not gone unnoticed. More and more light is being shed on the horrifying reality that a veteran faces upon returning home every day, and it brings a great sense of urgency to the work that Travis Mills is doing. According to a study using veterans between 2001 and 2007, veterans have a “significantly higher suicide risk compared to the U.S. general population” (Kang et al. 2015). According to the same study, military personnel suicide rates were at a maximum within three years of leaving the service, and then slowly decreases. There have also been many veterans surviving amputations from the wars in the Middle East. 1655 “US military personnel suffered major or partial limb amputations” (Walllace, 2012). With the state of well-being of the veterans who defend this land in decline, we need more heroes like Travis Mills.
Source 1. Miller, Joshua R. (2012). “Quadruple amputee undergoes surgery after Afghanistan blast,” Fox News
Source 2. Schmidt, Mackenzie (2017). “A Quadruple Amputee Vet Transforms a Crumbling Estate into a Beautiful (and Free!) Vacation Retreat for Military Families,” People
Source 3. Wallace, Duncan (2012). “Trends in traumatic limb amputation in Allied Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Volume 20 no. 2: Journal of Military and Veteran’s Health
Source 4. Kang, HK, et al. (2015). “Suicide Risk and Risk of Death Among Recent Veterans,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs