A Hero's Welcome

Friday, October 5, 2012 - 12:40pm

Town welcomes back soldier who lost his arms and legs in Iraq, but isn't letting that fact slow him down.

If laughter is the best remedy, Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills is well on his way to full recovery.

He's using his humor to help cope with a devastating loss.

Mills is home in Vassar, Michigan for a month on convalescent leave from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he's been undergoing therapy after he lost all of his limbs in Afghanistan in April.

His progress in nearly six months astounds his doctors.

He can use his prosthetic right hand to scratch his nose and fix his t-shirt.

Once a football, baseball and basketball player for the Vassar Vulcans, the 25-year-old now relies on his wife, Kelsey, to help him put on his legs and stand up every day.

"It's not fun," Mills admits. "It's definitely not fun, but it's not the end of the world."

It's the beginning of this new normal - a challenge Mills said he relishes because he needs to be the best dad for his one-year-old daughter Chloe.

"I said look, she's going to learn how to play softball, I'm going to have to learn how to throw and catch. And if she wants to play volleyball, I'm going to learn how to spike, if she wants to do ballet, I'm going to learn how to do a pirouette," Mills said.

Perhaps it's his bright outlook on life the community finds so admirable, though Mills himself insists, he's no big hero.

"It's important that people know that I was just doing my job, you know? I don't feel like I did anything more special than those guys over there," Mills said.

But Thursday night was Travis Mills' night, as hundreds of people lined the streets for Vassar High School's homecoming parade.

"That was one of his big goals," said Craig Buck, Mills' father-in-law. "To be able to come home, see all the local people, thank them for the support they've given him, to be able to stand and walk and greet everyone."

For a moment, the bashful hero was in the spotlight.

He tipped his hat to the cheering crowd, a small gesture to express his gratitude.

"I want to help pay it forward and let them know I really do appreciate it," Mills said.

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