November 19, 2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. – His sense of humor helped him get through the most trying time of his life, but Staff Sergeant Travis Mills of Vassar couldn’t hide his emotions Tuesday as he said goodbye to the doctors, therapists, and all the people who helped him on his road to recovery.
Mills lost his arms and legs after an IED exploded while he was serving in Afghanistan in April 2012. Since then, he’s been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.
Mills set a goal for himself – he wanted to be out in 18 months. He beat his goal by one month.
“It’s just attributed to everybody here who is great and helped me, as well as my daughter. I cheat. I find a reason to go forward – my 2-year-old daughter and my wife by my side. So it works out,” Mills said.
Mills’ wife, Kelsey, explained, “Here, it’s their own little world. There are amputees everywhere – a lot of people like us. Out in the real world, it’s going to be a shock, I think, to not be around that, but we’ll always have them to lean on.”
People like David Beachler & James Vandersea – the men who built the prosthetics Mills literally leans on.
“We try to use the latest technology on some of the soldiers and injured warriors here. It’s been a pleasure working with Travis. He really pushed the limits of his technology, always looking to drive it further,” Vandersea said.
And then there’s Mills’ physical therapist, Kerry Quinn, who says Mills was an inspiration to the other wounded warriors.
“We’ll tell patients here, ‘It’s going to be OK. Things are going to get better,’ Quinn said. “But to have someone like Travis come in his room and say, ‘It’s OK, it’s going to get better’ – they believe him because he’s been there, he’s been through it.”
It wasn’t just goodbye to Walter Reed, but also goodbye to the Army. Mills received his Certificate of Retirement, a Certificate of Appreciation from President Obama, and the Army Commendation Medal. And while Mills might be retiring from the Army, he’s not ending his service. He’s working on the Travis Mills Foundation, which will help the families of service members who died overseas.
“I had buddies overseas who perished and left behind a daughter or son. The first two recipients will be my buddies who died overseas, each with a 3-year-old daughter,” Mills said.
And so Staff Sergeant Mills becomes Mr. Mills, as he rejoins civilian life.
“It’s been life changing, obviously. But thank you for everything you’ve done, and allowing me to go on with life,” Mills told the crowd.
Mills, his wife, and daughter are moving into a new house in Maine in a few weeks. But he says he’ll be back to visit his parents here in Mid-Michigan often, including this Christmas.