Frisco Enterprise > News
Man of honor
David Pratt/ Submitted Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills life changed on April 10 when he stepped on an IED and lost all four of his limbs. Mills is currently recovering in a military hospital in Maryland.
Countless service men and women risk their lives every day to protect the citizens of the United States. On April 10, Army Staff Sgt.Travis Mills gave one of the most harrowing sacrifices after he stepped on an IED [improvised explosive device] while out on foot patrol in Afghanistan.
"He is a squad leader. A mine sweeper and some other guys had already walked ahead of him, so him and two other guys walked that same path," Tammy Buck, Mills' mother-in-law said. " I don't know if it was Travis's weight, [or] he just stepped in the wrong place ... he remembers being flipped into the air and coming down onto his stomach and his limbs were gone and he was just yelling to make sure the guys were alright and they were, he was the worst injured."
Travis's wife, a former Frisco resident and Centennial High School graduate, Kelsey Mills, was initially told about 12 hours after the accident that her husband would have to undergo triple amputation, however, because of the injuries he sustained he lost all four of his limbs.
"He had two fingers left on his hand, but the following day they had to amputate that also because it was so badly damaged that the skin had died," Tammy said.
Kelsey's brother, Josh Buck, who graduated from Frisco High School, was serving overseas in the U.S. Army along with Travis when heard the news of what happened to his brother-in-law.
"He had deployed with Travis also, and when he heard of what happened he got really upset," Tammy said. "He was on a different FOB [Forward Operating Base] and was so distraught that he broke his hand and he ended up being medevacked to the same hospital that Travis was at, and ended up being able to escort Travis back here to the states."
Tammy said Josh's accident was a "blessing in disguise" because Travis did not "think he would have made it if Josh wasn't with him."
Travis, who is currently recuperating from the accident at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland, is surrounded by his family as well as Kelsey and her family.
Tammy said Travis is experiencing phantom pain, which according to mayoclinc.com, "is pain that feels like it's coming from a body part that's no longer there. Doctors once believed this post-amputation phenomenon was a psychological problem, but experts now recognize that these real sensations originate in the spinal cord and brain."
"His brain is so strong, and he remembers it happening which is unusual because most people block that out," Tammy said. "It feels to him that someone has put a torch under his feet and so it's like the nerves have remembered the pain during the blast, so he is in terrible pain."
Despite the initial pain of the accident, Travis is making progress in his recovery. Tammy said the doctors are "amazed" with his healing and the fact that he did not sustain any internal injuries. She added that doctors think he will succeed with his recovery.
"They think he'll do well," she said. "He's got a great attitude, he's got tremendous family support and they said those two things alone are going to help him through this."
David Pratt, family friend of the Mills family, and Vassar, Michigan resident said he has known Travis for about 12 years because Travis was close friends with Erick, Pratt's oldest son.
"They were in junior high and high school together, so he spent a lot of time at the house and spent the night eating meals here," Pratt said. "Plus I had the opportunity to coach him when he was growing up in different sports and watch them play ball together, so I knew him pretty well."
Pratt said he and his wife visited Travis's parents after the accident to give the family their condolences and offer them a means of help during Travis's recovery.
"They're very proud people, and they're not the type of people that ask for hand-outs or want hand outs," Pratt said. "This is a situation where it is warranted and we wanted to help them understand that, and that everything people were doing was out of the greatness of their heart."
Pratt said people wanted to want to help the family and show their appreciation for the sacrifice Travis made while serving his country.
A website was created for Travis and his family, www.travismills.org, which follows Travis's life, recovery and ways in which people can donate or attend fundraising event.
Pratt said the money received will be used to help with Travis's medical expenses.
"We do whatever we can to help the family out and make sure that they've got friends available to stay out there with Travis ... because they have jobs and now they're not working because they're out there," Pratt said. "The military is doing an awesome job of taking care of Travis, he's getting the absolute best of care. His primary medical bills will be taken care of, but yet there's going to be a lot of secondary expenses that people haven't even thought of."
Pratt, who said he used to visit Facebook twice a year, now spends 6 to 8 hours a day monitoring Travis's recovery and answers questions and emails from Travis's website.
"There's half a dozen of us handling different emails, I've been put in charge of media," Pratt said. "We forward the information to his family and they deal with us if they have time available. It's a lot to do."
Pratt said a group of supporters from Michigan and the Buck family in Frisco has formed what he calls 'Team Mills,' which organizes fundraiser events.
Recently, an arena football team in Saginaw, Michigan allowed Pratt and members from Team Mills to sell T-shirts and collect donations. On May 5, the team will be out at another game between Saginaw and Indianapolis.
Pratt said the Indianapolis team was scheduled to play a home game, but after hearing about the Travis Mills fundraiser, the team decided to play in Saginaw instead.
"They heard about Travis and what this thing was doing for him, so they actually gave up their home game and moved it back to Saginaw," Pratt said. "It's going to be the Travis Mills night at the football game."
Other organizations are reaching out to Travis and his family, like the Plano Chick-fil-A, off Preston Road and Highway 121 near Frisco also held a fundraising event on Friday to help raise money for Travis. The Gary Sinise Foundation has also offered to help Travis and his family, Pratt said, by donating a home to the soldier and his wife when they are ready.
The Road Ahead
Tammy said Travis was recently visited by Kyle Maynard, a man who, according to his website, http://kyle-maynard.com, was born with congenital amputation.
"Travis was really inspired by him because Travis has always been so athletic, this has just been devastating to him," Tammy said, "but he is keeping a positive attitude."
Though there has been no definitive timeline of how long it will take Travis to recover, the family knows the road ahead will take time.
"We'll be here for months and months -- even a year, I don't know, no one has really given us an estimate on time," Tammy said. "It's going to be a long road to recovery, but he is doing well."
Pratt said he hopes to not only help Travis and his family with fundraising, but to also spread the word about wounded soldiers.
"We want to make this so big and get so much attention because I know I'm a lot more aware today of the different organizations that are out there, available to help wounded soldiers and soldiers when they come back, that I didn't know about," Pratt said. "That is our goal, to increase the awareness around the country that these soldiers need help and it's our responsibility to take care of them, not just the governments."
Copyright © 2013 - Star Local News