It’s not every day that the star of a documentary attends the film’s screening. But on Monday, March 3, three years after losing his limbs in an IED explosion, veteran Travis Mills attended a screening of the documentary based on his life at Cosford Cinema. Despite the tragedy, Mills, 28, was in good spirits.
“Every day I get up and put my legs on and then I put my pants on,” he joked.
A former United States Army Staff Sergeant, Mills is one of only five surviving quadruple amputees that has served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He chose to tell his story to a crowd of veterans, members of ROTC, family members and eager listeners at the University of Miami through the documentary, “Travis: a Soldier’s Story.”
“I’m just one story of so many out there,” Mills said.
Fotolanthropy, a foundation that uses photographs to tell true stories of those who have overcome adversities, chose his story to be their first feature documentary for a reason.
Some believe it is because he is a hero. However, Mills begs to differ. He feels that despite his injuries, he is no different from everyone else who has served the United States.
Before the documentary was shown, Jim Casen, Mayor of Coral Gables, presented Mills with the key to the city.
“Travis paid a very serious price,” said Mayor Casen, “and we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his service to The United States.”
Audience member Hilda Jacobson, 50, felt that most people without any connection to those serving in the armed forces do not recognize their importance.
“Nineteen-hundred thousand people go to Miley Cyrus’s concert and 17,000 people go to someone else’s concert, but he [Jacobson’s friend, Andrew] said ‘we’re trying to sell 200-something tickets to people for a man who risked his whole life for us.’”
It was for this reason that Jacobson, and many others – enough to fill the entire auditorium and an overflow room – made the decision to support Travis’s family through the viewing of the documentary.
The audience sniffled their way through the inspiring stories of Mills’s Myspace love affair with his wife, Kelsey, and the amazing recovery from his tragic accident during his time of service.
“Of course it’s tragic what happened, but it’s so amazing how he came out from it,” said Absalom Lwayne, an audience member who is in army ROTC.
Directed by Katie and Reece Norris, the documentary reenacted everything from the time Mills enlisted to Mills’ recovery process, using home videos, photos and acting.
As much as it was a story of a soldier’s recovery, it was also a love story and a symbol of human strength. His former troops told heartfelt stories of his time in commandment and his wife brought the entire audience to tears when she recounted the strength and beauty of the relationship between them and their baby daughter Chloe.
For Mills, it was simple.
“The way I saw it, I only had two options: either lay there and get spoon fed or get on with life,” he said.
He chose to get on with life. After all of the things he has been through, he has learned that “it gets better.”
Proceeds made from the documentary screenings and other social events go to support Fotolanthropy and the Travis Mills Foundation, which was created to assist wounded and injured veterans and their families.