The book “Tough As They Come” by Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, USMC, Retired, was given to me at the perfect time. The year 2017 had just started and I required renewed motivation to accomplish the goals I set for myself. The book is 273 pages of sheer inspiration and a transparent account of weathering incredible adversity. SSG Mills is a testament to perseverance and embodies how we should face all of life’s challenges: “Never give up. Never quit.”
On April 10, 2012, Mills was enjoying a day off with his team in Afghanistan, and days off were infrequent. Their free time was cut short when local villagers reported that several improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had been imbedded in the ground. IEDs are not taken lightly by troops in the Middle East as they account for “some two-thirds of all coalition soldiers killed or wounded.”
Mills and his men did everything by the book. Mills was not going to let a foolish mistake on his part as a commander inflict any harm towards his soldiers. By simply laying his rucksack down on a part of the ground that was already checked and cleared, Mills set off the very IED he and his men were sent to find.
The hidden IED immediately blew off both of Mills’ legs and his right arm; his left arm was barely hanging on. Mills, despite the severity of his injuries, asked the medic how his guys were doing and if he was ever going to see his daughter Chloe again.
The men in his charge were all fine. One of them had to be hospitalized, but he would come out in one piece. Mills, on the other hand, became the fifth quadruple amputee in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The injury took just as much of a toll on him mentally as it did physically. He had a family. His wife Kelsey and his two-year-old daughter Chloe were his entire world. He could not cope with the inability to provide for them. He decided in his hospital bed that being unable to provide was not an option. He was determined to face this challenge head-on, as he has always done, so he went to work on his recovery and on helping others.
As he went through rehab in the hospital, he visited other soldiers who suffered injuries that resulted in amputation surgeries. His goal was to pull them out of the darkness of their adversity and show them a way to live with their injury. If a man who lost all four limbs can do it, then surely a man/woman who lost less can too.
Mills pushed his limits everyday so he could get out of the hospital and on with his life. The doctors asked him, “Travis, what’s the rush?” Mills pointed at the pictures of his wife and daughter behind the doctor and responded, “Look behind you Doc. I have a family.”
Travis Mills made it out of the hospital and moved forward with his life. Luckily for us at R-MA, he will be the keynote speaker for our 125th Anniversary Gala at Westwood Country Club on April 8th. He is a motivational speaker, actor, author and an advocate for veterans and amputees. He started the Travis Mills Foundation in September of 2013, a non-profit designed to aid combat-injured veterans. He continues to face challenges due to his injuries every day and continues to conquer them every day. He lives his life by his motto: “Never give up. Never quit.”