On April 10, 2012, US Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills was on patrol during his third deployment to Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division. When his unit came to a short halt, he placed his bag on the ground not knowing an IED was there.
When it detonated, the blast immediately blew off his right leg and right arm. It also left him with extensive injuries on his left extremities. Two medics rushed to Mills and began administering care even after he told them “not to worry.” Ignoring Travis, the duo saved his life.
The explosion caused such extensive damage that when doctors removed his pants, his left leg was separated from his body. “I became a triple amputee that day,” says Mills. “Two nurses pumped air into my lungs while nine other doctors and nurses worked on me for 14 hours.”
In addition to having more than 30 blood transfusions, part of his left arm had to be amputated, and on April 14th, he woke up in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
Today, Mills is just one of five living quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is nowhere near slowing down. Other than being a husband, father, New York Times bestselling author, and subject of a documentary, he is the CEO of the SSG Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit to benefit wounded veterans, and their families.
What first began with sending care packages to those deployed overseas in 2013, the foundation has grown to provide a week-long retreat for wounded vets, and their families. Completely driven by donations, the retreat offers a host of activities including horseback riding, boating, canoeing, and archery, just to name a few, the Foundation has hosted 56 families over seven weeks so far this year, with four additional weeks in the works.
For Mills, the support they receive are vital for injured veterans and their families “to know they’re not alone, they can live life to the fullest, and not on the sidelines.” But the retreat isn’t just about the great outdoors.
They also offer spa days for spouses, and date-night for parents. “It’s an all-inclusive great time”, says Mills. “We’ve had kids tell us its better than Disneyland.”
Travis wants other injured veterans to know that even with drastic physical limitations, you can find determination. “I remember sitting on the bed looking at a picture of what I used to look like and I broke down,” says Mills. “Who am I without the military? Who am I without arms and legs?”
From there, Travis found that giving back gave him a sense of purpose in life. “It takes an awakening moment like that where you have to get out of our own way, and push forward.”
And Travis continues pushing forward. On Sept. 12, he announced the newest addition to his family on Facebook. His newborn son, Dax, is named after Daniel Bateson and Alex Voice—the medics that saved his life.