Printed on: October 05, 2012
Quadruple amputee soldiering on
VASSAR, Mich. (AP) -- Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills had been a lot of places since losing his four limbs in Afghanistan. The one place he hadn't been was where people knew him best.
He finally returned to his Michigan hometown this week -- six months after the explosion that cost him his arms and legs -- to serve as the grand marshal of his old high school's homecoming parade.
"I didn't come to Vassar yet because I wasn't ready for people to see me without my legs. ... Because in Vassar, everybody knows everybody," Mills said in an interview hours before the parade Thursday.
Mills is still undergoing rehabilitation at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. But he's been able to get out and about. In the past few weeks alone, he took part in a 5K benefit walk in New York and celebrated his daughter's first birthday on the base at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Mills barely suffered a scratch during his first two tours of Afghanistan, but during his third, on April 10, he placed a bag of ammunition down on an improvised explosive device. The resulting blast tore through the 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.
The 25-year-old is one of only a few servicemen to lose all four limbs in combat during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and survive.
Mills has worked out daily at Walter Reed, getting used to the prosthetics but also strengthening his body for the rigors of what's to come once he leaves.
Mills was told quadruple amputees require at least 21/2 years of recovery and rehabilitation. But his goal is to be out of Walter Reed and back home in less than half that.
"I am going to be out of here" in a year, he boldly told his doctor.
After that, he isn't sure what the future holds. He might go back to school, or perhaps work as an instructor at Fort Bragg.
"This is my new normal, and it's all about how I adjust to it," he said.