Published January 29, 2014
Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills never thought he’d be the center of attention when he joined the armed forces eight years ago. But after sustaining a life-altering injury in Afghanistan nothing remained the same — except Mills’ unfettered determination.
Mills, originally of Vassar, Mich., lost portions of both his arms and legs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device on April 10, 2012, while serving with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. He remains one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive his injuries. On Wednesday, a documentary on Mills’ story of hope and determination will be screened in Times Square in New York, where he’ll be joined by other wounded warriors, as well as tenor Daniel Rodriguez, patriotic artist Michael Lobaido and Fox News' Jenna Lee.
“I’m absolutely excited, I’m just here to tell one story of many wounded warriors,” Mills told FoxNews.com early Wednesday. “I’m going to let people know that bad things happen and you just keep going. Getting back on track, moving forward — that’s what’s important.”
The outlook for Mills, 26, was initially dire. His wife, Kelsey, wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to him that he “survived against all odds” and his injuries had her turning to prayer despite not being an overtly religious person. Nearly two years later, after countless surgeries and procedures, Mills said he’s now able to drive himself to run errands, like food shopping, and is able to walk alongside his 2-year-old daughter, Chloe, with the help of prosthetic legs. He’s even challenging other runners to race against him in the Tunnel 2 Towers 5K Run & Walk in New York in September.
“You come to a point where you have two decisions: You either lay there in bed and feel sorry for yourself or you just keep going,” Mills said. “Honestly, it’d be selfish if I didn’t keep fighting.”
Mills’ arduous path to recovery will be detailed in “Travis: A Soldier’s Story,” which premiered in Dallas in August. The film includes raw footage from the early days of his recuperation and was filmed in less than four days due to Mills’ intense rehabilitation schedule. It also includes interviews of fellow soldiers and combat medics, as well as a reenactment of Mills’ catastrophic injury.
“When it played in my hometown and in Dallas, that was a big deal to me,” Mills continued. “But in Times Square in New York, are you kidding me? I’m super excited.”
After losing his limbs a world away, Mills returned to Michigan in October 2012 to a hero’s welcome, serving as the grand marshal of his former high school's homecoming parade. Since then, he has stayed busy by launching the nonprofit Travis Mills Foundation to help wounded veterans, and the Travis Mills Group LLC, a consulting firm specializing in inspiring others to overcome adversity. Ongoing construction of a “smart home” financed by the Gary Sinise Foundation also keeps Mills busy. The home in Augusta, Maine, which should be completed sometime this summer, will feature such amenities as geo-thermal heating and cooling systems, iPad-controlled countertops, heated floors to facilitate blood circulation and oversized kitchens and bathrooms.
But Mills, who will also attend Sunday’s Super Bowl during his tour of the Big Apple, said his top priority remains being a family man.
“Being a Dad and a husband, as I’m supposed to be,” Mills said when asked about his primary focus in 2014. “I can’t give up on them because they didn’t give up on me.”