Sometimes, I think that life is really tough. I get really frustrated when my Hulu pauses for a reload, or when my siamese is super chatty in the morning begging for breakfast, or when I feel like there are definitely not enough hours in the day to check everything off my to-do list. #GrownUpProblems
This morning, I attended the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce breakfast featuring SSG Travis Mills. For those of you who don’t know who he is, Mills is the most inspiring person you will ever meet, and one of only five quadruple amputees from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to survive his injuries.
His motto: “Never Give Up. Never Quit”
He openly discusses the day it happened. It was a day like any other on his third tour when he put his pack down next to him and it triggered an IED explosion that would claim his right and left leg and his right arm– his left arm would be amputated a day later. He talks about waking up in a hospital on his birthday and not being able to feel his arms and legs. He asked if he was paralyzed. When he found out that he had lost his limbs, he said he closed his eyes and was really angry for ‘a week… OK, maybe two’, but after meeting another quadruple amputee, he decided that he wouldn’t stop until he could do all the things he loved to do before.
He spent a lot of time at Walter Reed and set small goals– being able to feed himself, being able to walk, and being able to drive. He says his wife and daughter served as his greatest inspiration. Mills’ sheer determination ensured that he not only reached all of his small goals, but that he surpassed them by snowboarding, skydiving, and mountain biking! He decided that giving up would never be an option. And man, does SSG Travis Mills sure knows how to laugh!
Today when someone asked him if he was always a comedian, or if it was a talent that developed after his experience, he said that his wife was hoping for an improvement after all the surgeries, but unfortunately, she was still stuck with the same old guy. He tells kids who have never seen prosthetics that he’s the real-life Iron Man, and proceeds to show them the ‘cool stuff’ he can do.
Inspired by his time at Walter Reed, Mills is the founder of the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit organization, formed to benefit and assist wounded and injured veterans. He is also a motivational speaker who discusses ways to overcome life’s challenges in times of adversity. He is also opening a retreat in Mt. Vernon, Maine that will serve as an oasis for wounded military veterans and their families. He said that it seemed like the one part of his recovery that was missing– incorporating his family in the process– and that it is the reason for him wanting to offer that service to those in similar situations.
I can’t even begin to imagine how I would react to my world being turned upside down, but I pray that I would be like Mills. I pray that I would find the bright side and use my experience into something positive, and I pray that I would be brave enough to never give up and never quit.
Here’s to SSG Travis Mills, and all of the real American heroes. Thank you for your service then, and your service now.
To learn more about SSG Travis Mills and how you can donate to his foundation, visit www.travismills.org.