NEW YORK (PIX11) — Travis Mills is unquestionably a profile in courage. His courage, strength and determination to live should inspire us all. An Army Staff Sergeant in Afghanistan a decade ago, he stood at death’s door, but miraculously reclaimed his life and his sense of humor as he celebrated what he calls his tenth “Alive Day.”
“Unfortunately I had a bad day at work,” he told a crowd about that day in April 2012 when he placed a heavy backpack on the ground which concealed an improvised explosive device. He lost both his arms and legs in the blast. A staff sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Infantry, Mills was on his third tour in Afghanistan. His condition was so severe, he became one of only five servicemen ever to survive such catastrophic injuries.
“Though it was the day I was supposed to die, I didn’t die. It’s my Alive Day,” he told a group of dignitaries who turned out to help him celebrate his special anniversary at the crossroads of the world — Times Square. And he didn’t need a Hallmark card to remind him how special each anniversary is. “How fortunate am I going from having nothing, no arms, no legs to having good fortune, I can feed myself, drive, walk, to be with my family,” Mills said.
It was Mills’ family that infused in him the will to live, undergoing years of excruciating physical therapy to learn to live with the prosthetics. His wife and 6-month-old daughter were there to cheer him on. With a gleam in his eye, Mills beamed, “My daughter was there as we learned how to walk together, and going around in the wheelchair.”
Fresh out of high school, it was the terror attacks of 9/11 that inspired Mills to join the Army. During the observance of his Alive Day, he visited Ground Zero, placing flags at the markers of two first responders, brothers John Vigiano II and Joseph Vigiano. There was a reverence, Mills told PIX11 News, as he visited the 9/11 Museum, a humble and reflective moment. “You go through there you feel people are still alive, the spirit of them lives on, and what is here shows how the country came together,” Mills said.
Fate did not deal Mills an easy hand, but he doesn’t dwell on it. After all, he beat the odds after being blown up. “I’m not bitter,” he said. “It is what it is. I have a very good life.”
Mills said surviving the almost unsurvivable has taught him an important lesson. “Small things in life I don’t worry about. I just appreciate every day I get to understand the importance and meaning of life. I’m here to watch my daughter grow, my son grow up. That means the world to me. I’m grateful to still be alive,” he said.
These days Mills spends a good deal of his time as a motivational speaker. He is the founder of the Travis Mills Foundation which provides comfort and support for wounded veterans. He truly is a profile in courage who is the embodiment of his own credo: “Never give up. Never quit!”