For several weeks we anticipated the arrival of a special guest, one of the only five surviving quadruple-amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for a visit here at the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, S.C.
Some might think that because of what had befallen the young, now-retired Army airborne sergeant he would choose to face life as an introvert, or perhaps be unwilling to discuss openly that day in April 2012 when he was critically injured by an improvised explosive device. But nothing can be further from the truth.
With honesty, courage and a considerable amount of wit, retired Staff Sgt. Travis Mills recounted his story to a crowd of Veterans and employees at the Dorn VAMC on March 28. Within the first moments, the captivated audience was hinged on every word about the explosion, evacuation, surgery, recovery, rehabilitation and most importantly, his family’s faithful support.
Accompanied by his wife, Kelsey, and an entourage of military chaplains and filmmakers, Mills spoke about his love of the military, being a soldier and life. He also spoke about his recovery and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, from which he was released in good health last November.
“I am not wounded anymore. Scars heal,” said Mills. The retired soldier is not limited by his multiple amputations; in fact, different prosthetics give him the mobility to lead an active life filled with driving, swimming, snowboarding and running.
“Two weeks ago, I even jumped with the Golden Knights,” he said of his jump with the U.S. Army’s parachute demonstration team.
Mills, who has received some of his health care from the Dallas VAMC, works actively with Wounded Warriors and other groups to aid Veterans in rehabilitation and recovery. He is also the focus of the documentary, “Travis: A Soldier’s Story,” that includes interviews and emotional reenactments from Travis, Kelsey, and also his fellow soldiers who witnessed the events of 2012.
Following his remarks before the Dorn VAMC crowd, he visited with fellow Veterans at the Rehabilitation Clinic where he rallied encouragement and conveyed his “Never give up—Never quit” mantra that continues to drive him through life.
The impact of the soldier’s story was clear to acting medical center director David Omura who spoke about its importance to the healing of other Veterans at a luncheon following Mills’ visit to the Dorn VAMC.
“Travis Mills is an important role model for our wounded warriors here at the Dorn VA and at other VA medical centers,” said Omura. “He sets a high bar that should be the goal of every soldier wounded on the battlefield.”
For more information on this American Veteran, visit www.travismills.org.
Kevin Lee McIver is the Public Affairs Officer at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, S.C. He is a 34 year Veteran of military and federal service