When two airplanes struck the twin towers at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and America responded with troops to the Middle East, New Yorkers and our country suffered unimaginable loss. But few people have experienced loss like Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills.
It happened when he was leading a ground patrol in April 2012 during his voluntary third tour in Afghanistan.
“And I set my bag down, and within a second — in an instant — a bomb went off, ripped off my right arm [and] my right leg immediately,” he told MetroFocus host Jack Ford.
Mills was airlifted to a hospital and later both his left arm and leg were also amputated. Medical teams say he was conscious and calm from the battle field to the operating table, but he wouldn’t learn the full extent of his injuries until four days later on his 25th birthday when he awoke from the trauma.
At first, he was defeated. He said he encouraged his wife, who had only given birth to their daughter about six months prior, to move on.
“…I just told her, flat out, ‘you didn’t sign up for this,'” he said.
But his wife refused, and her commitment encouraged Mills to push himself through a strenuous and remarkable recovery as one of only five quadruple amputees from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. He now runs 5Ks, skydives, drives and prepares lunch for his now 4-year-old daughter with the help of prosthetics.
“It was either have someone spoon-feed me or be a father figure to my daughter who’s my best friend and teach her how to do everything,” he said.
Mills documented his struggles and how he overcame them in the new book “Tough As They Come.” He was also featured in the documentary “Travis: A Soldier’s Story” by Fotolanthropy. He hopes to share his experiences with veterans and amputees who suffered similar injuries to show them that life doesn’t end when you lose a limb, or four.
“I think it’s very important to let people know with my situation, I’m not living life on the sidelines,” he said. “I’m out there being active, doing whatever I can do.”
Mills and his wife, Kelsey founded the Travis Mills Foundation that in part brings veteran amputees and their families to a property in Maine to enjoy recreational sports over the summer. They are raising funds to renovate a larger, permanent property and expand the program to more families.