Retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills is a recalibrated warrior, motivational speaker, actor, author and advocate for veterans and amputees. He is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive his injuries. His new book about his challenges and triumphs, As Tough as They Come, is available in bookstores everywhere on Oct. 27.
Travis will be a featured speaker at the Heroes Work Here conference in Chicago on Nov. 3, geared towards helping employers build and implement an effective veteran and military-spouse hiring program. The free one-day workshop is an opportunity for human resources professionals, recruiters and senior-level representatives to listen, learn and network with national thought leaders from various employers, government agencies and veteran support organizations. For more details on the conference and to attend, see this site. We had an opportunity to talk to SSgt Mills about the event.
Military.com: It's been over three years since you sustained your injuries – how have things been progressing for you physically, mentally and emotionally?
Things have been progressing very well. While I definitely had to overcome some serious physical, mental and emotional challenges during the initial stages of my recovery, I have done my best to overcome these challenges. Thanks to my wife, daughter, family, friends, the incredible team of healthcare providers at Walter Reed, and the prayers of so many across the nation, I was encouraged to "Never give up. Never quit," even in the darkest days of my recovery. Today, for the most part, I have adapted to my new normal. I mean I still have brief moments when I get frustrated like when I drop something such as my credit card and my prosthetic hand just can't seem to get clasp it. But overall, I focus on keeping my attitude positive. I have so much to be thankful for because so many of my brothers and sisters in arms have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Can you summarize your foundation's aims and your current programs?
During my recovery at the U.S. Army's flagship hospital, Walter Reed, I found a passion for inspiring fellow wounded servicemen and women. While at Walter Reed, I consistently toured the facility seeking opportunities to encourage and spend time with fellow wounded soldiers and their families. To carry on my passion, I founded the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit organization, to benefit and assist wounded and injured veterans and their families.
The Travis Mills Foundation is currently in the process of transforming the historic Maine Chance Lodge, originally built and owned by cosmetics pioneer Elizabeth Arden, into a retreat for combat wounded veterans and their families. When it's completed, it will be the nation's first fully-accessible "smart home" facility dedicated to serving the recreational and reintegration needs of combat-wounded veteran families. Scheduled to open Summer 2017, the retreat will fill a vital role in the recovery, camaraderie, spousal support, reconnection, relaxation and reintegration for our military heroes – a true and lasting symbol of a grateful nation.
How did you come to be involved with the upcoming Heroes Work Here Conference?
My friends at CK&D Cause Marketing and Media Group, who have been helping me with my book, Tough As They Come, were working with their clients, Easter Seals, on producing The Walt Disney Company's Heroes Work Here Conference in Chicago. Recognizing that Easter Seals, Disney and I share the same mission of helping veterans reintegrate into civilian life, and that employment is a key component of reintegration, CK&D introduced me to Easter Seals and Disney. I hope that my presence at the event shows that all veterans, including those with disabilities, are capable and eager to contribute to our communities.
What do you hope to communicate to participants and employers at the conference?
Veterans are a tough group of people who have thrived in stressful environments and have worked together as a team. Most jobs require collaborating with a diverse group of co-workers and veterans are well experienced in that area; they're used to forming tight bonds with people from different racial, religious and socioeconomic groups. People in the armed services go through months of extensive training and learn how to do something the right way. As a leader, I knew I had to be there for those on my team, and I know that everyone I was deployed with would do almost anything for me. That loyalty is something that's instilled in every veteran and something that will benefit an employer.
Do you have a message or piece of advice for veterans out there who are struggling to find a job?
My advice is, as always, to "Never give up. Never quit." As I know firsthand, life can throw some unexpected things at you, but as veterans, we've been trained to adapt to any situation. While we're working to help employers learn about the unique value veterans bring to the workplace, you can also work to help civilians understand the skills you developed during your career in the armed services. Rewrite your resume to replace military jargon and acronyms with simple explanations of the tasks you performed in the military that someone without your experience could understand and highlight how those skills are transferrable to a civilian workplace. While it might seem obvious to you, potential employers might need some help understanding how your military experience has prepared you for a stateside job.