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"Turkey and rice, tastes so nice!" he sings, as the baby girl opens wide and flaps her hands.
Only a half-year older than his injuries, Chloe has been a significant source of inspiration to Mills. He was there when she was born on the base at Fort Bragg, N.C. He left 4 months later for Afghanistan. Now, she sees him every day — sometimes helping him with his recovery.
Some videos show Mills doing crunches on his bed with an elated Chloe on his torso. In another video, he straps her into his wheelchair and zips around as she waves her hands in excitement.
Mills repeatedly talks of how "blessed" he is to be alive.
"Now I can watch my little girl grow up and see my wife and family again, and everything’s good to go," he said. "I didn’t die, so that’s good. You’ve got to look at the positive things."
Mills’ prognosis moving forward isn’t clear, but there have been advances in working with patients who suffer similar injuries. Karen Pechman, who runs the amputee rehabilitation program at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, N.Y., said "only in the past few decades has the medical care existed that enables" people who incur the trauma or disease states that would result in quadruple amputees to survive, so it’s not yet known whether those who lose all their limbs have their life expectancy diminished.
"There is nothing inherent medically about amputation that would affect subsequent health," Pechman said. "It is ... the activity level achieved by the patient that may impact on subsequent health."
As he recovers, Mills’ story is compelling thousands to take notice and offer support. Recognizing that the family will face costs not covered by the Army and insurance, a fund has been set up for his family. There have been 5K runs held in his honor. T-shirts printed. Concerts, golf tournaments, motorcycle rides. Under the banner of hundreds who call themselves "Team Mills," fundraisers have been held in Kelsey’s home state of Texas, in North Carolina where the couple lived and many places in between.
Nowhere has more been done, though, than in Michigan, where a recent spaghetti dinner at an American Legion post netted tens of thousands in donations. In Mills’ hometown of Vassar, it’s hard to find a tree, lamppost or telephone pole without a yellow or red, white and blue ribbon attached. Businesses throughout the 2,700-resident town feature signs encouraging prayer for the Mills family.
"I wouldn’t want to go through it. I don’t know anybody that would," said Paul Wojno, the principal at Vassar High School and the father of one of Mills’ best childhood friends. "But ... if I had to pick one kid in this school that has recently graduated, I’d say Travis would be the one to try to do it."
Mills recently achieved his goal of progressing to the point that doctors OKed his move to a nearby outpatient facility that allows him to live with Kelsey and Chloe. Now, he’s setting his sights on September, when his unit returns to Fort Bragg.
"I’ll be there, hopefully on my prosthetics, and I’ll be standing in my uniform and I’ll have an arm on my right and left side and I’ll be able to salute them as they come in. And I’ll be standing there waiting for them," he said.
As for all of the supporters who call him a hero?
"Just because stuff happened to me, I don’t think it makes me a hero," he said. "I think it just makes me a guy that did his job, knew the consequences of what could happen and something happened."
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