OCALA, Fla. – In just a few short weeks, a country concert is coming to Ocala’s World Equestrian Center, and in the crowd, you may find a pretty unique audience member.
Travis Mills is one of five surviving post-9/11 era quadruple amputee veterans.
“I’ve got my hook on today,” Mills joked during our conversation.
Mills is the founder of the Travis Mills Foundation, an organization that supports recalibrated veterans and their families.
What does recalibrated mean?
“I was just tired of hearing people call me wounded, you know, I hate that I’m lumped into that,” Mills said. “Like it has negative stigma like, ‘Oh, you’re wounded. You’re one of those.’ I’m not, I’m healed. I mean, I got scars, but that’s about it. And I just decided I was going to be recalibrated, if anything. I’m actually, I guess, a recalibrated warrior, because, you know, we had to change things. I had to find my new normal. And I had to bounce back, if you will, and go forward with life.”
Mills lost his arms and legs more than 10 years ago.
“I was fortunate to serve as a second Airborne Division joined the US in 2006, I went out three deployments, and I’m a third deployment, I have my you know, my backpack on the ground. And my backpack hit the ground or anything was a bomb, the bomb resulted in me losing portions of both arms, both legs.,” Mills said.
At first, he said he found it difficult to look at himself in the mirror, but with a baby at home, he had to get it together pretty quickly.
“I had a 6-month-old little girl that was right there with me the whole time recovering, learning how to walk with me, how to do everything with me, and I’m not one to be down and out for a long time,” Mills said. “It’s difficult when you have to think about, ‘I don’t have arms and legs anymore at 25 years old.’ That’s kind of a hard thing. It’s difficult to realize that I lost the best job I’ve ever had, you know, and I can’t do my job anymore. But the same time, you know, for every negative thought that I had, I think I had a positive support group with my wife by my side, my daughter, my parents, my family, my in-laws, everybody. And at the end of the day, I just don’t see myself as different anymore. I mean, yeah, like I have no arm, I have a prosthetic, like I’ve got a hook on right now. I wear a hand usually, but you know, I’m in my wheelchair, I have prosthetic legs. I just see myself as having extra steps in the morning, put on my legs, on my arm, on my clothes, and I go about my day.”
It’s coming so far in his personal life and the love of those around him that inspired him to give back to other veterans who need the support.
“My wife and I were shown so much love and support, we decided that we wanted to start a nonprofit just to give back. We didn’t know really what we were doing. And we started giving care packages out with a donation from ourselves,” Mills said. “And now we have a fully-functioning retreat that we bring people to with physical injuries due to service, paralyzation, amputation, spinal cord injury, something to do related to service while they were in there, show them and their families a great time. do things adaptively, how to live life to the fullest, to never live life on the sidelines, be active always. And, you know, it’s been a fun ride.”
The retreat takes place in Maine, where Mills lives. It’s an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid experience in the outdoors, which includes bonding with other veterans and plenty of rest and relaxation.
It’s that type of work Mills and his organization do that events like the ‘Never Give Up on Country’ concert funds will go to support.
“We’re having Jimmie Allen as a headliner, Colt Ford and Kidd G as, well. It’s going on in Ocala at the World Equestrian Center, it’s gonna be a great time. We’re very thankful for, you know, all the performers and all the World Equestrian Center staff and Mary and Larry Roberts, for allowing us to host it there. And I’m just excited to see where it goes. I mean, it’s, you know, it’s special, because people come together and do great things. And they believe in my foundation, they want to help my foundation grow,” Mills said.
“Hopefully I see you guys there. And if you can’t find me in the crowd, I’ll be the one with no arms, no legs!”
Get tickets here.