April 25, 2012 - By Jerred Pender
2005 Oxford High School graduate
On Sunday, April 15, my friend Travis Mills turned 25 years old.
To most of us 25 is not a milestone year in our lives, but for Travis it will be.
Travis has a wonderful loving wife Kelsey, and a precious 6-month-old daughter name Chloe.
Travis and I met four years ago when we were both reassigned to C-troop, 4-73rd CAV after our first tour in Afghanistan.
We were the only two Michiganders in our platoon and had a lot in common. We quickly became great friends.
If we weren't at work complaining about work, we were either playing basketball at the gym, or watching sports at his house off post, still complaining about work.
Between training soldiers side by side at work, hanging out after work or on the weekends, and car-pooling from Ft. Bragg back home to Michigan, Travis and Kelsey Mills became an extension of my family. A year went by in an instant and in August of 2009 we were headed back to Afghanistan. I thought Travis and I were close friends before we left, but little did I know how much closer we would become.
Throughout the 12-month deployment, Travis and I were seemingly attached at the hip. From our first fire fight (direct combat engagement with the enemy at close range), to dealing with our first close friend lost in battle, throughout our two week RR, to the minute we both stepped off the plane at green ramp, Travis and I helped each other through everything.
He was my team leader during our first mission where we spent 47 days living in a Humvee at the top of a mountain. Our bunks were side by side when with left that MT top in Zobzek Pass for a tiny FOB (Forward operating Base) in the remote district of Robat-e-Zangy.
He was there to punch me in my chest when I was promoted to the rank of sergeant. Shortly after my promotion, a platoon much further north sustained heavy casualties, and our platoon was tasked to take over the AO (Area of Operations).
It was during the move to Bala-Mur-Gab that I was moved to second squad, and named bravo-team leader. Being in charge of soldiers in combat, and directly responsible for their lives was, and to this day still is, the biggest responsibility I have ever been given. Naturally, I was very nervous.
I remember looking to Travis for help and reassurance, and that is exactly what he gave me. We made it through those last five months, operating in one of the most dangerous areas in Afghanistan, and living on the most frequently attacked FOB in the AO without a single casualty.
Travis along with the rest of the NCOs in our platoon are the reason I can say we all made it home safe. I spent my first day back in the states in Travis's back yard with his family, and that Christmas both our families got together for the first time in Frankenmuth Michigan.
Soon after, we fell into the same routine of basketball, and complaining about work when we got back to Ft. Bragg.
We both used to complain about this and that when it came to our job in the Army; however, where I decided to finish out my initial enlistment and returned home to Michigan in June 2011, Travis' profound sense of duty and patriotism led him to reenlist for another four years.
We kept in close contact until in February 2012. Five short months after his baby girl was born, Travis deployed for his third consecutive tour to Afghanistan with the 4th BCT of the 82nd Airborne DIV. Newly promoted Staff Sergeant Mills was once again leader of soldiers in combat on the front line of the War on Terror, where he felt he belonged.
At approximately 7:30 am (U.S Central Standard time) on April 10, five days before his 25th birthday, Travis suffered the worst possible injuries a man can be forced to live with. He lost both legs below the knee and both arms, one above the elbow and the other below, after stepping on an IED.
It is now two days after this tragic incident, and in no way is this story over. Although Travis survived this horrific act of war he has yet to wake up, and unfortunately when my friend does open his eyes it will be to a world that has completely changed in every way.
I don't know exactly why I am writing this story, but I hope it can be of some good to Travis and his family in some way. I will do all that I can to help support Travis, and his loved ones for the rest of my life.
Travis Mills is an inspiration and a true American Hero! For those of you wanting to help with the long road ahead of Travis Mills, Kelsey Mills, and their daughter Chloe here is the address set up to accept donations. The Mills Family Fund, C/O Mandy Bishop P.O. Box 2536, Frisco, Texas 75034.
There is now a web site set up for those who are interested in following Travis and his progress. The site is www.TravisMills.org