ROME, Maine — With Veteran's Day set for Friday, we want to honor those who have served our nation in the military.
Travis Mills is someone worth knowing. He's a husband, a father, and a veteran. He's a man who served with everything he had and came home, physically, with only part of himself.
"The wild thing is, I was in the hospital bed telling my wife she should leave me thinking I was going to be a burden." That was Travis Mills' plea to his wife as he lay injured at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Mills had been on his third tour of duty, this time in Afghanistan. He was on patrol, as he tells it, when he was blown up by an IED explosion. Mills lost portions of both legs and both arms. He's one of only five quadruple amputees from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who came home alive.
But he came home. And there was no way his wife or daughter was going to leave him.
"My daughter is the biggest supporter of my recovery," Mills says. "She was six months old when I got blown up. We learned to walk together."
They all learned how to adjust.
"I had to regain my independence slowly but surely with having a prosthetic arm and being able to feed myself, dress myself, and drive," Mills adds.
Now he is driving. In fact, he's getting both his daughter and son to school.
"My son now is 5," Mills says. "He's a new addition. My wife and I were lucky to have children, and we named him Dax after the medic that saved my life."
While he was recovering at Walter Reed, Mills says he went through a lot of soul-searching as he tried to figure out what he would do moving forward.
"I've got to be honest, I lost my chance to serve my country. I lost my chance to serve. I had to find a way to give back," Mills recalls. "I think it's wired in me, so we started the Travis Mills Foundation."
Nearly 10 years later, the Travis Mills Foundation now gives injured veterans and their families a retreat to remind them that they're so much more than what they've been through.
"We take them out and rebuild their confidence," Mills explains. "We instill in them the independence that they can still do things as a family unit. Watching these kids have such a great time and realize their parents aren't the only ones in a wheelchair or amputations or something like that, it means the world to me."
Travis Mills says there are two lessons he lives by. The first is that he doesn't get lost in what happened to him.
"I'm never gonna change what happened yesterday or the day before. I'm never gonna change getting injured, so I just reminisce what I had I just go on with life. I don't dwell," he says.
Second, Mills has learned to recognize what he can and can't control.
"You can't always control your situation, but you can always control your attitude. For me, my attitude is everything. I'm always upbeat and positive. People sometimes wonder, 'is he always like this?' Yeah, it's exhausting to my wife – ask her. But I am. I don't let my situation dictate my mood because I was given the chance to live. I can be grateful and thankful for that, but if I'm very honest, I'd go back to having arms and legs in a heartbeat."
But of course, Travis Mills can't go back. So, he goes forward with his family, his friends, and for his fellow servicemen and women and everyone who supports his foundation. Because his foundation helps make families and people whole again, including Travis himself.
"It restored my faith in hope and humanity because people are awesome. We have more that we agree on than we disagree on."
You can help the Travis Mills Foundation by making a donation. As part of the "Mortach Million Dollar Challenge," Mortach Financial in Avon has pledged to match your donation up to $500,000. Click here to donate.
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