VASSAR, Mich. – Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills has been dreaming of this day for six months.
Mills, who lost all four limbs while serving in Afghanistan, is set to receive a hero's welcome Thursday when he returns to his hometown of Vassar for his high school's homecoming parade.
It's been a trying recovery for the 25-year-old Mills, who is one of only a few servicemen to lose all four limbs in combat during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and survive.
On patrol during his third tour of Afghanistan on April 10, Mills put his bag down on an improvised explosive device. The resulting blast tore through the decorated athlete's muscular 6-foot-3 frame. Since then, he's undergone a grueling series of medical procedures and been pushed to the limits by medical professionals intent on seeing him pull through his rare injury.
All the while, his hometown has pulled for him from afar as he convalesced at Walter Reed Medical Center near Washington, D.C. Hair salons, American Legion posts and many others hosted fundraisers this spring and summer as community rallied around him.
With the arrival of fall, a half a year has passed since Mills' life was changed forever. But it's difficult to find a tree, lamppost or telephone pole without a yellow or red, white and blue ribbon attached in this bucolic community of 2,700 that sits 90 miles north of Detroit.
A downtown bank proudly displays an electronic sign that welcomes Mills as a "hometown hero," as do dozens of other businesses.
The homecoming gets under way in earnest Thursday evening when the whole town — and then some — are set to take part in the annual homecoming parade. Mills, his wife, Kelsey, and their 1-year-old daughter, Chloe, are to serve as the grand marshals.
Travis Mills also is expected to address the crowd before Friday night's Vassar High football game.
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