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Cliff Duvernois (00:09):
Hello everyone. Welcome to the call of leadership podcast where we interview those from our Michigan community who answered the call of leadership. We’ll hear their amazing stories and get their powerful advice. I am your host Cliff Duvernois. Joining me in studio today is my producer, Miranda Urbanczyk, and today I have to admit, I am actually a little bit lost for words. I really don’t know how to describe my guest today because he really has inspired me beyond words. He probably served in his country, in the us armed forces and tell he had what he calls a bad day at the office and it literally turned his world upside down. And fortunately for all of us, his personality is larger than anything that life could throw at him. And his story is even larger. He’s been featured on Fox news, CNN, the Ellis degenerate show. Mike Rowe featured him on his Facebook show called returning the favor. He and his wife run a foundation where recalibrated veterans and families can go and enjoy outdoor activities and bond with other veterans. Loving father, devoted husband and I just love this guy, sense of humor, his spirit, his attitude. And if I do not stop, I’m going to go all fanboy on him. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the show. Travis mills. Travis, how are you?
Travis Mills, Travis Mills Foundation (01:25):
Oh thanks for having me. What a wonderful introduction. I think you forgot I’m addicted to Philly cheese steaks. As long as you add bacon, pepper, Jack cheese and jalapenos. And cheesecake is my downfall. So it’s great of the accolades. You just enlisted off. I need to lose weight is what I’m trying to get to.
Cliff Duvernois (01:41):
So are you like a big fan of the cheesecake factory?
Travis Mills, Travis Mills Foundation (01:44):
You know I am. Are you kidding me? I could go on there. I live in Maine. It’s very remote and rural compared to like a big city of like Dallas, like race, anything like that. Well like Reese, right, right. So the cheesecake factory, I don’t think there is there, there isn’t even one in Maine. So like I’m lucky there, but I’m not picky. I’ll take the variety pack from the local grocery store that has the turtle, the peanut butter chocolate, the chocolate, and the regular with the strawberry. But anyway, I know we’re not here to talk about food, I’m just letting you know that Philly cheese steaks are my downfall as well.
Cliff Duvernois (02:18):
All right, cool. So if I have to bribe you, I know how to do it a hundred percent. Yay. Yeah. So before I jump into my questions, I have to say this on behalf of everyone who listens to the show, thank you for your service.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (02:30):
Oh, well I appreciate that and I’m glad that you have a show that people listen to and are tuning in and I hopefully can do good for you and we’ll have a fun time today.
Cliff Duvernois (02:38):
Yes, I’m really looking forward to it. And for the four people out there who don’t know who you are why don’t you tell the audience where you’re from, where you grew up?
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (02:46):
Oh, absolutely. Thanks for the opportunity. I am from the great town, or I guess it’s city, actually a Vassar and Vassar, Michigan. You know, I grew up there. I’m the favorite child of my parents three. And you know how it all happened? Well they fell in love, got married, then they decided to have one kid that wasn’t me. And then they had another one that was me and they tried to duplicate me cause they got it right the second time and they couldn’t. So anyway, like I say, I’m from Vassar, I have my parents and my two other siblings grew up there my whole life.
Cliff Duvernois (03:19):
And then joined the military. Speaking of which, and I got to ask this question, what, what motivated you to join the military in the first place?
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (03:28):
Well, in truth, I was going to college. I was only going to college in grand Rapids community to play football. I didn’t care about anything else is, you know, one would probably need to care about school and stuff like that. So I was racking up debt, not really enjoying my classes and they weren’t in the classes that counted towards anything. So I decided that it was time for me to move on. I wanted to get some adventure and I broke it down between the Marines and the army, what I was going to do next. And when I went to the Marines and talked to them, you know, it sounded good. I went to the army, they offered me $24,000 signing bonus and I went to the Marines and asked about their signing bonus. And the guy said, you get honor duty and respect. And I said, that’s great, but I’m talking with cash money and you had no answer for that. So I was like, what idiot would join that branch of service? Now we all know how dumb Marines are. So all of them. But anyway, I’m just kidding obviously. But so I joined the army airborne infantry video and I was hooked and I learned how to, you know, jump out of airplanes, kick bad guys in the face and ended up at Fort Bragg, eventually home of the 82nd airborne division.
Cliff Duvernois (04:33):
I know that you documented this in your book. I also know that it’s part of the movie. Travis mills, a soldier story plug plug. Tell us about your experience in the military that has propelled you under this new path that you’re on right now?
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (04:49):
Well, absolutely. So when I was in the military, my first deployment, I went for 15 months and I got to lift a lot of weights and do a lot of patrols and come back and worked for a Colonel, which was really cool job. So I got to see a lot of mission stuff. But I also got the chance to, you know, live a cush life, if you will, like on a base that had internet access and phones and weight rooms. And while I was over there, the first time I met my wife, who was my medics little sister, I never met her before, like in person, but we started talking on my space messenger and decided we wanted to hang out. She was 18 in college and I was 20. So the only logical thing was we should probably just head to Mexico for a week when I come home for 18 days.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (05:29):
So I flew into Dallas to pick her up and our first date was to Mexico. And then after we went to Mexico, we went back to Michigan for a week back overseas. I went and I came home when we got married shortly after, you know, was at Fort Bragg still. I did a second deployment. And on that deployment I lived in the middle of nowhere. I took four showers in one year, a lot more firefights and your needs getting thrown and stuff like that. And then on the way back home, after my year long deployment we bought a house together and we found out we were gonna have a baby four months after I got home, which was exciting. And then my daughter was born in 2011 just, you know, two months or three months shy of me deploying again for my third time.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (06:10):
So, you know, everything was going pretty well for me in the military. And I deployed for a third time to Afghanistan as a staff Sergeant. And when I was over there, I happened to set my backpack down on a patrol and on top of a bomb. And when the bomb went off, it took my right arm, right leg off automatically. They never found those pieces of me and then eventually my left leg and left arm got amputated as well. During the surgeries, it was pretty rough day at work to say the least, but after nine doctors and seven nurses worked on me for 14 hours, they were able to get me stable but critical that time I was a triple amputee, but two days after that I had to have my left arm amputated the rest of the way and then on April 14th they woke me up for the very first time on my birthday. Actually I don’t have a medical sedation and I found out that I was not only 25 that day, but also I quadruple amputee.
Cliff Duvernois (07:01):
What, and I know you probably get asked this a lot, especially right now with everything that’s going on in the country and there are people out there that are really struggling. What is it? What is it that really pulls you through that time? Because man, I, I just could not envision what it is that you were going through at that time.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (07:21):
Absolutely. So I think the biggest thing for me was my daughter. I mean, I woke up in the hospital and had no idea what was going on. When I woke up, my brother-in-law was only one in the room and launched in Germany and told me what happened. And I didn’t want to talk to my parents. I didn’t want to call, you know, my wife and have a conversation about like, well, I’ve got no arms and legs. Now what are we going to do? But when I arrived at the hospital on the 17th of April in 2012 my wife came out and they had to give her a clipboard to cut my right leg, two inches higher. So the first thing that she saw when she talked to me was a clipboard in her face saying, Mrs. Mills, his right leg is ripped open and suture split. We have to cut two inches off his right leg and he’ll bleed out and die.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (08:02):
But we can’t do that until you actually sign this waiver because you’re now in charge of his medical care. So, you know, you’d see the, the hallmark movie posts or whatever, where they run to each other and she hugs me and sexual love me forever. But in reality she ran to me, they gave her a clipboard, she almost fainted. She was so like overcome with like, you know, just what the heck. And I had to yell like, Hey, just signed a clipboard. It’s cool. Like it’s fine. So they signed the clipboard, they took me in, they had cut my leg two inches higher and the next day I saw her and I kind of just laid it out like, Hey look, you’re 23, I’m 25, we have a six month old little girl. This is not a life I would choose for you financially.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (08:45):
Whatever we have is yours, house cars saved up money and I will give you everything I can, but this is not what you need to do. Like you don’t have to be for this. I’m not going to be a burden on you. Cause you know, in my head during those I guess four days from being conscious to seeing her and having a real conversation, I have questions in my head like, am I a bad person? You know what I do wrong in life? Like does God hate me? How can it be a husband, a father? Like how am I not going to be a burden on people? And in truth, you know, I am sure you know this, but maybe the listeners don’t. My biggest question was why didn’t I just die? You know, not that I was suicidal, not that I wanted to die, but how is this going to be better than just dying?
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (09:30):
And you know, my wife stepped up and she’s like, that’s how this works. We’ll get through this together. So at 23, you know, she made the decision that she was going to stick around and she was going to help me get back to whatever our new normal was going to be. So there’s a lot of admiration and thankfulness I have for how great my wife was in that situation and still is today going forward. You know, on our 12th year of marriage coming up this June regulations on that by the way. Oh thanks. Before it was obligation because everybody was going to judge her if she left. And now it’s my social media because I would make her life pretty miserable. She left, you know, it’s, it’s that whole, you know, downfall of a standing with social media. I’m just kidding obviously.
Cliff Duvernois (10:16):
Yeah. Cause I listened to the audio version of your book tough as they come. And I have to admit I really got choked up in there when you shared what your wife wrote in her journal after, after you told her that she should leave and she wrote in her journal till death do us part. And that really choked me up. I actually had hit the pause button there for a second. What the tears were eyes. So she sounds like she’s an incredible woman.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (10:40):
Oh absolutely. And it’s funny cause she says that in her sleep sometimes, but then I find her with a pillow over my face. It’s like snaps out of it. Like she wasn’t really awake and I’m like, I don’t know. You know? No, I’m just kidding. I’m sorry. I keep things light. I get awkward when it’s serious time and I apologize for that. So I’ll try to tell a joke. So like me at a funeral that’s just, Oh gosh, it’s awful. Really? Yeah, just don’t do well in serious situations. If I can’t make light of it or put people at ease, I feel like I’m doing a disservice. So,
Cliff Duvernois (11:17):
Yeah, that’s really part of your personality. I mean, I remember the first time I came across you, it was a, it was actually a Fox news and you were being interviewed and I was completely stunned at just how powerful that your, that your sense of humor was and it was just amazing that you, you seem to be able to make people laugh like that, you know? It is just so natural for you.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (11:41):
Well, I mean, I appreciate that. I do what I can and I find that the best way to have people accept me when they see me is to have humor because it helps them just understand I’m as regular as anybody else. You know, I get a lot of people that will see me in public and stare and if we’re not, everybody knows me. Like where I’m at in Maine, it’s hard pressed to find somebody that really doesn’t know who I am. It’s kind of funny cause some people know who I am without knowing me. So I was at the pro section one day and a lady was like talking to me and she’s like, Oh, do you know my friend Travis mills? He’s a great guy. I’m like, yeah, that’s, that’s cool. And she goes, no, no, you’re not Travis mills. No way. You don’t look like, I mean, I got my idea out of my pocket. I said, no, I’m Travis mills. I’m the guy with no arms, no legs. She goes, Oh, you look different than last time. We hung out and I’m like, I don’t even know you, but okay. I’m not offended. Like at least she’s telling my story in a positive way. But
Cliff Duvernois (12:38):
Do you think there’s a another Travis mills out there in person and he knew,
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (12:42):
Well there’s another Travis Mills out there that’s a rapper from California. That was a bunch of tattoos and I used to come up on the search engine first, but then he went on the show ridiculousness on MTV. Just let Rob Dyrdek know he owes me one and I’m going to host the show because I think my picture pops up first. But his website, or maybe it’s my website and his picture, we’ve got gotta fix that on their deck. Needs to know that he’s got to fit me into the show ridiculousness on MTV, which is basically just like, you know, America’s funniest videos, but on MTV,
Cliff Duvernois (13:12):
Speaking of media wow. Your, your journey, just coming back from where you came from, learning how to walk again, learning how to use prosthetic legs and prosthetic arms and everything else. It was, it was really amazing. And I was touched by the fact that your wife, your various family members were documenting your journey back. And at some point in time you decided to write a book and then take that footage, stitch it together into a movie. What, what made you decide to go so public with your story?
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (13:45):
Well, I don’t have a problem talking about it. I have no issues discussing what happened. My demeanor throughout my recovery and how I was able to find happiness in my situation. Because like I tell people, I tell jokes when I do motivational speaking, but it’s not a facade. It’s not me just pretending to act. Okay. Like I really am okay with everything. I am a happy person. I think it helps people open up because in truth we all know somebody that’s going through something horrible, whether it’s cancer, a car accident, suffering from an illness or disease. And if I can shed light on, Hey look, bad things happen to good people. Keep pushing forward, you’ll be fine and everything’s going to be okay. And while we’re doing this push forward, you know, stuff, why don’t you check out my Facebook and Instagram and I’ll do fun videos with my family and my kids to keep it light for everybody.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (14:39):
Because I think the biggest thing that is holding people back is fear. I think fear plays a huge role and people finding success and going for something or achieving it, whether it’s in a situation like mine where you were injured or something like that. Or maybe even in starting a business or taking a leap of faith in a new adventure with your friends or anything that you can think, well for me I think people see my story, they see the videos and they’re like, well Jesus, this guy can do it. I mean why can’t I? And it’s about finding, you know, my story and then seeing that there is a, a positive ending because so many people have written in to me and, and shared things and on social media or email about what they’ve went through and how my story has helped inspire them or keep them going. And it’s truly awesome because I never, I never knew I was going to be that impactful on people and I never would try to step in and tell someone or situations, you know, not as bad as mine cause I think we all have problems and you know, it’s just about rushing to get through them. So if I’m helping inspire people or push them forward or get them over the hump that they’re in, like, Hey, I’m all about that, let’s just have a good time and go for it.
Cliff Duvernois (15:51):
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Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (17:08):
Came pretty gradual. It started with at the hospital like okay let me back up in the military people always wonder what my public speaking like. There always are. Were you a good public speaker? And I’m like well I don’t know if I was good at it. But the military, the more rank you got, the more classes you gave, the more classes you gave, the better you had to be. Cause if you were bad or messed up you get made fun of and Rast. So I got good at not caring what people thought but also do presentations. And then at the hospital when I was injured, I was one of the older guys there, which sounds funny cause I was only 25 but as you get hit are the younger ones. So I was kind of like their big brother, squad leader, still type person. They can lean on and look up to him and respect and understand like, Hey, if he do it I can do it.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (17:50):
And it became a trend of, Hey Travis, we got someone upstairs. We can’t tell you their name or room number because of HIPAA, but I can tell you they’re not in room 40 and they’re definitely not in room 42, but if you can find them. And I’m like, well geez, luckily I’m not a Marine so I can count. So I knew where they were right next door to me or like working out in the Matsi or whatever. I’m not sure. Center, like I don’t get it. I mean they’re in room 57 and I’m like, Oh wow, that’s impressive.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (18:19):
You know, Marines are fun to pick on cause they don’t get my jokes. So it doesn’t hurt their feelings. But no. So they were telling me like, Hey, this person’s up there, could you some inspiration? And I had that from Todd, nicely tied nicely. It was a gentleman that is a gentleman, he’s still alive, but he’s Marine retired second ever quadruple empty. He flew in from Missouri, from his house to tell me I’m going to be fine, walk again, drive again, feed myself again, do everything I want to do. And that was really inspirational to me. So I made it a point to go to everybody’s room. And before you knew it, I had like as much as I think 12 people at one time going with me room to room, whether they were walking on their legs, they were in a wheelchair because they hadn’t had their legs yet, or they were in their short legs with a cane, you know, before they got their tall legs.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (19:05):
So like all steps and processes of recovery, we would go as be the welcome party. Like, Hey, what’s up? Welcome, how are you doing? And it wasn’t just for them, it was just as impactful for the families. And you know, that became my, my everyday ritual. I’d workout. Then I’d go to the floor and say hi to people, see if they needed anything. And you know, then it just kind of progressed and people from Texas found out about that story. One do a documentary on me. I said, yeah, sure, no problem. And then became good friends with them, the documentary and Kelsey and I saw all the love and support from everybody at the, you know, the hospital, whether it was, you know, nonprofits like Gary Sinise foundation, which, you know, built my home, my handicap, accessible adapted home or iPads for troops, right? They have small iPads for troops and everybody has their mission or operation hat trick, like to give back and do something great in Kelsey.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (19:55):
And I thought, let’s do something. This is, we started a nonprofit and we were just going do care packages and you know, over time and over the years it’s morphed into a, you know, multimillion dollar organization where we bring out people that have been injured from service that has had a physical impact. So parallelization, amputation, spinal cord injury, and we show them how to do things adaptively with their families. Cause my biggest point of recovery was having my daughter who taught me how to walk. Right. She says that we both learned how to walk together, which like you said, you saw the little homemade videos that we’re putting the documentary, me and her would jump into my wheelchair, we go room to room, meet people, we’d go to the cafeteria and we’d steal, not steal, but we’d sneak, I shouldn’t say it’s her mom would have give her mom a break hour, two hour, three hour break.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (20:42):
And I’d strap Chloe in and we’d go and either get grapes or we’d get, and her mom knew what was, you know, if we had cookies, it was all over her face and my shorts. But she’d be strapped, buckling in my wheelchair and we’d go room to room. So yeah, people are doing, and I can recall a time 10 of my guys one day got hit. It was a mass cow and nine of them survived with injuries and one died. And that was a month and a half after I got hit. So they got to the hospital. She slowly but surely and one of my friends was there named Stephan and Stephan was gonna maybe lose a leg and we have things, these guys called squad leaders at Walter Reed, like in their nice, right, that’s our duty assignment. And they try to set rents and keep you online and on track and doing the right thing.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (21:26):
Make sure you go into everything you got to go to. Well Stephan was in the gym talking to the pain clinic and they were talking about cutting his knee off and a knee is a very precious thing in the squad leader. Kept calling him and calling him and calling him and he kept yelling at him and Stephan was all upset and almost in tears. He was so irritated and I saw him and I said, Hey man, what’s going on? And he’s like, well this my squad leader keeps calling, blah blah, blah blah and yelling at me and I got to get this. I might lose my knee. And he says, I gotta go over there and take a urinalysis test. And I’m like, you gotta be kidding me. So I said, call him back. So he calls him back and I got on the phone and I said, Hey, Sergeant mills, he goes, well, is a staff Sergeant.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (22:01):
I said, let me rephrase that. This is staff Sergeant mills. And I said, and you better beat me to your first Sergeant office because if you don’t beat me there, it’s going to be the worst day of your military career you’ve ever had. And the guy started to say something. I said, no, no, no, that’s it. I’m hanging up now and if I get there before you, it’s going to be the worst day of your military career, I promise you. And I hung the phone up and I got through the first sergeant’s office before he got there and I told the first time what’s going on and I’m in a wheelchair, right? And I’m a staff Sergeant, but I’m going to wheelchair and I was going on with what Stephan this year on analysis test. I said, look, he’s going to test positive for oxycodone.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (22:33):
He’s on painkillers. What are you testing? And for us is a waste of the military. His time and Stephan’s time, he might lose his knee and that you know that stat, that squad leader came in and he started yet. He goes, this guy right here, and I said, I said, you better watch your tone buddy. And I said, sit down. I said, you worked for Stephan as much as you as he does what you ask him to do. I said, I’m going to go do this stuff. He might have his knee cutoff off. You know what that’s like, no you don’t. I said, so know your role. Shut your mouth and do your job, but understand at the end of the day, Stephen’s not saying in the military, all right, Stephanie’s getting out. Stephanie’s going to do great things and he has a lot going on in his life.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (23:08):
So if you can’t understand that, then you need to get reassigned somewhere else. And then he went to the mountains, first Sergeant locked him up and I said, I don’t, I’m not trying to ruin your career, ruin your day, but if you don’t pull your head out then obviously there’s a more choice words. And I have a little bit of a temper when it comes to that. I said, we’re going to have problems and you don’t want to have problems with me. I guarantee it. And then I went out and then the first Sergeant talked to him and it eventually came up and he apologized the stuff, because I think I went before I left, I said, Hey, you need to go and you better apologize to Steph him for what, what you’re doing because you don’t understand the situation the way you should. And I get, it’s a job, it gets monotonous you to do your job and you’re getting pressure, but if you don’t take care of this and we’re going to have problems.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (23:49):
So I became kind of that guy, not like my squad was yelling at me cause I didn’t cut my hair like I didn’t take care of those problems. I’m like, well, cut your hair. But the bigger problems, you know, I became the guy that would go and fix them. And I got kind of on a tangent and I’m sure maybe you have to edit some of this stuff out and I apologize and apologize, but out of your stories, I just, you know, I became, you know, not only the guy that was missing both arms and legs that worked out the hardest that went to people’s rooms that stuck up for the little guy, but also the one that was most, I guess, I don’t want to say photogenic, but whenever they had big people come in and ask, you know, Hey, can you come meet this person?
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (24:24):
And I’m like, yeah, no problem. So I’d be like, be the face of it. And I remember one time they had Peyton Manning Josh Freeman, who was a quarterback for the Buccaneers for awhile there. A couple of other big names and they had to come up. I’ll just smile names. Well, they came through the military advanced training site, which is really just a gym. And everybody’s talking to all these superstars. And then they have some people from American idol and they’re like, Hey Travis, like this guy, he’s like one of the top four contestants, I guess American idol. No one’s talking to them. Can you just go be nice and talk to them? And I was like, yeah, I know. So here’s this guy, you know he’s supposed to be like this superstar. No one knows who he is. So I go and talk to him.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (24:59):
He’s kind of being arrogant like, Oh, you probably want my autograph. I’m like, no, not really, but just how you doing? He said, something melts where it’s just real smug. And I was like, let me tell you something. No one’s talking to you. Nobody knows who you are. They asked me over here to come say hi to you and be nice to you to make you feel better about yourself. And then he was like, Oh, I said, I got things to do. So you need to have a good day. Understand that they asked me to come talk to you to make you feel better, not the other way around and the way you’re acting. I’m going to leave this conversation now and I just, I went away. I went, I had an appointment I was going to get to, but yeah, I should have probably been so rude to him. But the way he was acting, I was like, dude, you know you’re not, you’re not that great. Okay.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (25:46):
Cause I don’t think, I don’t put myself on a pedestal. Right. I’m the same person. And one thing that, this has nothing to do with my recovery, but I’m very proud of my little girl. Right. Eight years old now in third grade, Chloe land school. She’s, she’s just as nice to the principal as she is to the custodians. She makes it a Valentine’s day card for Mr. Williams. The custodian, she says hi to him and that, that, you know, that hits me because that’s who I want my daughter to be. That’s who I am. I’ll talk to anybody about anything for any amount of time, you know, within reason. I’m not going to have conversations about like, like I won’t get into like a conspiracy theories or anything like that, but you know, I’m the nicest. I’ll say hi to anybody, you know, walking through Sam’s club the other day, I talked to everybody, Hey, how you doing?
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (26:32):
How’s it going? And I don’t like sadness means nothing to me. Right. I don’t get star struck. I appreciate people’s accolades and what they’ve done. But at the same time, I, I’m not going to put you on a pedestal and treat you any better than I’m going to treat anybody else. And you know, at the end of the day, my mom ran Wingerts, she was the general manager over there at winger and Mayville and my dad worked for Nash Finch. He was a truck driver and a maintenance guy and he worked his butt off and they made a very, very good living. But they taught me everybody the same. So, you know, the fact that my daughter does the same thing, just,
Cliff Duvernois (27:07):
It means a lot to me. And I think that has something to do with the Michigan culture. I’ve, you know, I’ve lived in a number of States other than Michigan and the people here, they just, they just seem to be the most friendly, the most outgoing and it’s like you said, you know, you run across a lot of people that treat everybody the same.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (27:26):
Oh, absolutely. And you know, I going back to high school, I, you know, I talked to the principal, mr [inaudible], great guy, mr Olivier, the vice principal football coach. But I also knew, you know, Randy and Bob and, and, and all of the, the, the janitors if you will. And, and you know, it was cool because Randy had triplets that went to school that were two years younger than me, so I knew his kids and, and the CA, the guy Mike has he was a step son to the Bob, but he was in the Marines as well. So you’re right, it’s, it’s tight knit community. It’s, it’s how it, it all shakes out. I just think sometimes people might get lost in their title. Like the guy from American idol who I, I couldn’t tell you his name. What song you saying? And I could care less about him being, you know, 15 minutes of fame going on
Cliff Duvernois (28:13):
With this new journey that you’re on. You’re, you’re out there giving speeches, you’re giving talks, your period on television shows. And I know that you’ve met some really incredible people out there. Is there someone that you’ve met on this new journey that has just really inspired you?
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (28:30):
Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ve got starstruck twice in my life and I’ll be 100% honest with you. Matter of fact, even though it’s not possible, 110% I was at work freezers, a bowl game. They had me do the coin flip. So I did the coin flip. It was very cool honor. And I was with the Ilitch family and they’re sweet. The images, the little Caesars and tigers in that. And lo and behold, there’s a guy standing there, none other than Lloyd Carr. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I bumbled my words. I told him, coach car when they let you go from the Wolverines. I almost switched to being a Spartan fan because I thought it was so ridiculous. And he looked at me and said, don’t you ever say that? And I was like a little kid getting yelled at by like a mentor.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (29:11):
Like, Oh, I’m so sorry. I just wanted to play for you my whole life. I apologize. It just felt like such a little, like a little, like a, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to make you mad at me and are just pointing now I just want to be your friend. And you know, I don’t know. It was pretty cool to meet Lloyd Carr cause I always wanted to play for him and things like that. That’s where you grew up, you know, hoping and wishing you’re gonna do. And then the first time I met president Bush jr, right? 43. I’m sorry. Yeah, yeah. 43. I walked into his office as SMU and there he is standing like a wax figure and I walk up and he goes, Hey man. He goes, come on in big T. And I’m like, damn. I took his hand and I said, Oh my gosh, I’m so nervous right now.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (29:51):
I could pee. And he goes, we’re bathroom, front and back. I’m like, no, I don’t have to sir. I’m just saying I could, you know what, this is getting awkward. Me. I just please sit down, sit down him, my wife and Chloe and we’re having a great conversation. Me and him. And I told him how my hand works. I, I split in circle, whatever, any, my daughter’s running back and forth with his secretary of Logan, like color and pictures and stuff. I I go to leave and we get in the elevator and I call my best friend TJ later on that night. And my best friend still lives in Michigan, T J Shafer, let the world know great guy, works in Clara at the hospital. Just had a baby. But I called TJ and I said, Oh my gosh, dude. I met the president today, you know, obviously former president today.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (30:36):
I said, the first thing I did, I walked up from like, Oh my gosh, I’m so nervous. Like a P right now. And he goes, you Forrest Gump, the president, I guess I did. He goes, yeah, you don’t force. The first thing he said is he had to pick his drink. Too many dr peppers. I said, I didn’t even try to do that to be funny, but you know, I’ve had conversations with, with junior sense great guy has 43 foundation partners in my foundation on some ventures. And I used to get phone calls from Babs and Georgie and then ask me to go to events. That’s, you know, Barbara Bush and George Bush senior, whatever. No big deal. I just know. But anyway, so those are kind of the two people I really got star struck at. And you know, it’s funny, I’m a motivational speaker and I go all around and I spoke at an event in central Michigan was first getting started and I made a joke in front of the president and my dad gets so nervous when I speak at colleges hand.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (31:30):
He goes, Oh, I’m sorry sir. He didn’t mean that. I said, dad, you can’t say that. Like I can say that goes, you can’t say that he’s the president of the college. And I was like, well, you got a point. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. But, but now it’s it’s pretty cool. And you know, I, I found since my injury, I’m quite the entrepreneur mindset. So not only do I do the public speaking which was on track to have my record setting year this year until this whole Corona stuff, because the first 90 days I was gone, 60 of them. But now I’ve been canceled out through June. I was supposed to go to Alaska and Dallas and Villanova university and colleges and in, in companies like Wayfair and Lockheed Martin just hit me up. I think we’re getting that deal done for November, which is awesome as long as this stuff slows down with what’s going on in the nation.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (32:19):
But I also, I have a neighbor and let me tell you a quick story about that. My neighbor and I, first time I met him, we went shopping for some rifles and we went to the store and I’ll tell you what, I wasn’t clear to buy a gun that day and neither was he. But I looked at him and said, I’ll buy one of you buy one. He said, funny thing is I was going to say the same thing, so I’ll buy one if you buy. So we bought these guns and we got grounded from my wife’s for or by our wives, you know, from each other for two weeks, can you believe it? And on this two weeks of being grounded, I went down to get gas on my boat at the Marina that’s locally that I live near. And the owner was like, Hey Travis, you should buy this place.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (32:57):
And I said, why would I do that? And he said, well come look at the P and L. And I said, I don’t know what that means, but okay. And I told him I didn’t have any idea. That’s what my neighbor, I had to look at the P and L is it? He goes, Oh, profit and loss statements. I said, yeah, yeah, whatever that means. So I took him down there talking and looking at the numbers. We thought this would be a pretty cool adventure. I convinced my parents that I was going to do this if they would come work for me. So my mom was going to quit her job, retire. My dad was already in retirement, so they were gonna come run this. My wife and his wife said, don’t you guys do this? So we drank whiskey one night and signed the dotted line, we’ll be in trouble quick.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (33:33):
So I bought a Marina, which has like 40 rooms and cabins and cottages and my mom and dad came and ran it for a couple of years for me, which was pretty nice of them. And then I also been part owner insurance company now and I, I own a old barn. That lady sells antiques out of that. We’ll see what happens in the future, but it might be pretty, pretty awesome what’s coming out. If everything goes right away by next June. So, you know, I keep, I keep buying businesses and doing things like that as well as the nonprofit keeps growing and growing and we keep servicing families and I know we’re supposed to put plugs in for like Travis mills, foundation.org. But I’ll let you do that. Oh wait, I just did it. But you know, it’s all great Testament to coming down and realizing we live in the greatest nation in the world and we’re able to lose our arms and legs even and still thrive and be prosperous if you really have the hunger and the desire and the drive to do it.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (34:24):
Amen to that brother. Greatest country in the world. It sounds like you’re playing real life monopoly there. Why don’t you share with us what a typical day looks like for you? Well, before this whole thing kicked off a typical day was you had to wake up yeah. Breakfast with my daughter and my wife. I have a son too. I’m not sure if I mentioned that he’s two and a half. I usually say that for any of my presentations. I have a joke about it, but my wife says we’re done now and I’m fine with that. But they have a son named Dax, which is D a X cause the medics were Daniel and Alexander. So he’s ended for those two, which is exciting. But you know, my wife, my daughter wakes up first with me and we’ll hang out, have breakfast. My wife and my son come down and usually I’ll get my shower and take Chloe, drop her off at school.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (35:07):
And then I’ll either run down to the Marina and check and run to the foundation office and check in or you know, one or the other. But normally I hit both of them, you know, and then go about different meetings, conference calls, stuff going on. Even though this whole crone of things going on, we still have a cafe we’re putting in, we got approved to put a cafe in at the Marina. So we’re the only place on the water that’s going to have food and ice cream, which is exciting. I have six cottages that were subdividing off in a condo association and selling those, which is another exciting thing. And I travel a lot so I’m on the road 130 days out of the year at different engagements, speaking and presenting. So, you know, I don’t know. It’s, it varies, which is exciting, but it’s, it’s a good time and I’m thankful that I get to put my legs on and jump in my truck, drive my truck like everybody else with my feet or one foot right foot and go about my day. I need to work out more. And I think that’s where my life’s gearing up for if we’re going to be stuck in the house for a month. She’s she’s told me I can’t just sit around and eat food cause apparently I’m not hungry on board.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (36:11):
And I got, I got a trigger smoker, like a trigger. I’m smoker. I went to the, I’m looking at it for like two years and finally I pulled the trigger. I said I’m buying it then telling my wife until I got home. Of course. Cause that’s a smart thing to do. And yesterday I made these chicken thighs and I put, Oh they were so good. So you know, and then I think I’m supposed to smoke something else tomorrow. I don’t know. It’s pretty boring. Simple. Everyday is changing stuff. I’m sorry if I w I suppose maybe say something like, Oh well I’m going to go to the moon, you know, but well I’ll tell you the truth. It wouldn’t surprise me if he went to the moon. I’ll tell you what. I’m going to go shark diving. That’s my next big like adventurous thing I want to do.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (36:49):
I want to go cage diving with great white sharks. I’m so deathly afraid of them that I want to just face them in a cage. I actually did that off the coast of San Diego. I went swimming with the sharks. It’s not anything like you are talking about where you’re in a cage. There’s great whites. They’re sprinkling blood in the water and stuff just to get them to come into the cage. I want that and I think I want it because they can’t really bite my arms and legs off. So anything they get me with is going to be fatal. Right. I’m not like, Oh, they’re gonna put my arm off and I’m just going to really be painful. Like, no, no, they get me. They’re definitely just, it’s over. It’s curtains for me, so I ain’t got to worry about like the recovery time.
Cliff Duvernois (37:25):
I get hit by the mom thing and it was curtains and here I am. So I guess the doctors were amazing medical stuff. Advancements is amazing. So let’s just not find out is the end of the end of this story that’s not getting bit by. So you’re done pushing the boundaries for now? No, no. I’m just saying I’m not going to get bit. I’m definitely, I’m definitely going to go cage diving. Sweet. You’re going to love it. I got my producer Miranda sitting here and she’d like to ask you a question. Absolutely.
Is there an interesting fact that most people may not know about you that you’d like to share this? Well, you know, a lot of people don’t realize I’m like a like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, you know? No. Think about it. Like I’m a carnivore, right? That’s never going to change.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (38:04):
I have short arms and if I fall over it’s very hard to get up. But, so nobody, Mueller, I thought I’d get more laughs out of your guys anyway. I don’t know. I, I really enjoy music. I don’t think people realize I really enjoy all different kinds of music and I’m not a good singer, but I’m not a bad singer so no one’s ever seen me singing in public. But I enjoy that. But not really. I’m kind of like, I think I overshare everything to the point where my wife’s like, you know, you probably don’t have to tell people everything.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (38:40):
Like tonight I’m going to go on Instagram live and I’m gonna tell a story about last night how the power went out. And I slept in the basement last night cause I had charged my wheelchair and the night before that I have a horrible sleeping schedule. Like, I’ll go to sleep, but if I wake up the middle of night for anything, I’m usually up for a couple hours. And I made them when I’ve been home recently. So like I spent a lot worse on my wife. I woke up at three, my son came down from his room, the climate and our bed and the fireplace was on and I could see it down the hallway downstairs. So like I got out of the bed and like that shouldn’t be on, you know, it’s a par propane fireplace or whatever. Natural gas, propane. Anyway, so I got in the elevator and because I have to have elevators, my wheelchair doesn’t go downstairs.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (39:21):
I’ve tried that, the heart arm kit and I didn’t but fireplace off and I kept turning back on. So I’m like hitting the lights and turning and making a lot of noise. And I guess I woke her up during that. And then I went to the living room, which is right below our bedroom. And I watched the rest of Wyatt Earp with Kevin Costner. Cause, I mean who has great Western, but did you know that the gunfight scenes and everything like that get louder. So anyway, she came down pretty, pretty upset with me when it got better throughout the day. And of course we watched our TV show Outlander last night and at 10 o’clock I said, Hey, I’m going to look in the basement cause I had charged my wheelchair up and that way I’ll be quiet and I promise it will wake you up tonight.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (40:00):
Well at three o’clock a power goes out and she comes downstairs and to tell me, and it’s all black in my house. The generator didn’t kick on for some reasons. You got to figure that out today. But she’s standing at the edge of this bed and she’s talking to me and it looks like the silhouette from the lady from the grudge. And I’m like, that’s creepy. And then Ooh, yeah. And then I got to put my short legs out. So I gotta like get my arm on, which I gotta take off and put my arm on, give my arm on, get it work and get my legs on. And by the time I got that going, like it takes probably like 30 to 30 seconds to a minute. I walk out from the bedroom and she’s gone and it’s all dark and I’m like, Whoa, what the heck.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (40:36):
So then I go back, lay in my bed and all I can think about is that lady from the grudge going to creep out of my closet, cracked open and I’m like, this is just for 20 minutes. I’m sitting there going, what’s going to happen? You know, I’m sure she does want me to share the fact that she was so upset with me yesterday that I decided to sleep in the basement because it was, it was a choice of my own. It wasn’t her choice to like, you’re not sleeping here tonight, but I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m not like a secret of lions fan. I’m just to like, you know, diehard lions fan where I’m like, if they lose them, like well we figured that was going to happen. It’s pretty predictable. But, but no, I, I mean I, I enjoy, I enjoy smoking meat, eating beef jerky.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (41:17):
I like music, mostly country, but everything goes, I think in a PA, you know, if I had the chance, I might be a music producer because a lot of times I can hear stuff on the radio and I’d be like, Oh, that’s going to be a big song. And I’m usually right. You know who’s on the top 40 countdown number one. I’m like, that’s going to be a big summer and it’s usually number one. You know, that day, not joke. Didn’t land. Nevermind. Anyway, so I’m working on stuff, but nobody’s asked for that. I mean, yeah, love my family. Proud of me from Michigan and there’s always two life lessons I like to tell the crowd that I think might resonate well with with your leadership podcast here. And the number one thing I tell the crowd is, you know what? Don’t dwell on the past.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (41:59):
Just reminiscent, right then close my eyes and hope we should pray. This never happened in a matter of how many times I did that I was up my eyes and it was so much situation. So instead of dwelling on the fact that had no arms and legs and I was injured, I just reminisce 25 years that I had with arms and legs and I, you know, had pretty amazing, I’ve had eight years that have been pretty incredible as well if you think about it. So I don’t dwell on what happened. I just reminisce and have a good time, look to the future. And then the next thing I tell the crowd and I speak to and I live by is, you know, you can’t always control your situation, but you can always control your attitude. And my situation every day I wake up with normal legs on, but I’m able to jump my wheelchair, go down with my daughter, had my wife and son come down and go about my day. And I mean, I’m not tooting my own horn because we’re not profitable. I mean, we are profitable, but I’m not taking money back. We have a six year plan, so I own four businesses and my nonprofits doing very well and we’re helping, you know, thousands of people a year. So it’s really exciting stuff.
Cliff Duvernois (43:00):
Speaking of Forest Gump, you have your Memorial day 5k in Vassar coming up, right?
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (43:07):
Oh you know it, I was gonna mention that if anyone wants to come out to the Vassar, May 23rd right now is his plan. That’s the plan going forward. But we’ll make a decision May 1st if we have to reschedule or push it back due to everything going on. But as of right now I will be there Saturday, May 23rd I will not be running, I will be wearing a nice polo nice shorts and I will be taking pictures with everybody because Y I just straight up don’t want to run and I know it sounds I’ll probably hang out that day. And then I have a flight Sunday morning cause I have a five K in Augusta on Monday morning.
Cliff Duvernois (43:46):
Dude, you certainly are busy now. Just to let you know that I successfully ran my first five K in training and so yours is the first five K that I’m actually going to run in registered. Right.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (43:58):
Nice. Well, look, I’m looking forward to you being there and I’m going to route you on. I mean, I’m not, look, this isn’t a golf tournament where I heckle people. Everybody, when I go to these girls permit fundraisers, I’m the first one yelling at them in their backswing. You know, asking why they’re there. Hit went to it right way so far to the left. Did they mean to do that? You know, but five K’s, I’m like, Hey guys, you big bunch of champions. Thanks for being here. I really appreciate it. Let’s go have fun today.
Cliff Duvernois (44:24):
Having fun is what it’s all about. I remember when I saw this posted on Facebook and of course I immediately went over registered for the five K and I was thinking, you know what, this is perfect because I have this goal of running and participating in five K’s to help raise money for these different charities. And you know, like I said, I heard your story on TV. It really motivated me to do this. So now that I can actually see the road, it’s not covered under two inches of ice, but it’s still early. But I’ll be out there running a lot more. So I will not embarrass you. I won’t let you down.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (45:00):
Oh, never. Never embarrassment champion. Like you know where you get the opportunity to, you know, help inspire people and, and you know, at the end of the day like it’s cool that you decided to run it. I know you probably have other reasons that just like, well you know, Travis mills put in five cans, I’m gonna go run that. But I’m wanting to get back and help and do, do the right thing. Like that is awesome. But also just making that huge step forward. Like, you know what, I’m going to practice too because we just got hit with six inches of snow or eight inches last night, which is very exciting for me because my wife was making me walk up and down the driveway re, you know, like fresh size. I can’t now finally get the day. Nah, she has a treadmill too. I gotta jump on that soon.
Cliff Duvernois (45:43):
Nice. man, I’m always bummed at this part of the interview cause I know it’s drawing to a close. If anybody in your audience wants to connect with you, you know, follow your adventures online, what is the best way for them to connect with you?
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (45:59):
Well, thanks for doing that. You championed, and I’m not trying to end the interview, but also I should say that Travis mills.org. If you click like get connected, you’ll get my email, which goes to me and a couple other people that helped me, you know, go through everything and, and read them. As well as at S S G Travis mills for Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and all that stuff. I do some fun things and I’m just excited that everybody is listening to your podcast and helping you push the mission forward because you know what, this is quality and not cause I’m on it. I’m saying your quality, it’s been a fun day and you’re a champion.
Cliff Duvernois (46:40):
I think I’m blushing.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (46:43):
I didn’t mean that, but I’m glad that I’m glad you felt. That’s good. You nailed it.
Speaker 4 (46:48):
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (46:48):
Aye. I was talking about, you know, you’re in Reese, you don’t need the heck family.
Cliff Duvernois (46:55):
Actually to tell you the truth, I have been trying to get them on the podcast as well.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (47:02):
Oh, you gotta get them? Which ones? Which heck family. You’re talking about the sweet corn.
Cliff Duvernois (47:06):
Yeah, sweet corn. Janet Hecht. My fiance is the one who, she was the one that actually said that I need to get the hex on the podcast, but you know, with everything that’s going on right now, and I know that they’re older, they’re probably in their seventies, maybe even eighties. Nobody. And I mean, nobody is going anywhere and I don’t want to ask them to learn technology to do an interview interview on the internet. So I’ll just have to wait till the plane goes by first.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (47:32):
I know. Well that was my first job, my first job that I didn’t work for my parents, you know, around the house and stuff like that. And my dad’s garden, I worked for next week corn, great people, but part of their family out. My buddy Mike Hecht, who I grew up with, good friends. I talked to him last night and I said, ah, shooting pain in my leg when I was FaceTiming him. And he goes in your leg and like, yeah, I still got a leg, you jerk. But you know you were. Anyway, I’m just saying cause recently where he lives as real closely from Vassar but whatever. Anyway, anyway, Hey look, I’m starting to ramble. I apologize. I do appreciate your time and I’ll let you get back to your day, but you too have been just phenomenal. And I’ve told actually I think two or three stories that I’ve never told in an interview setting today with you. So good job making me feel that comfortable
Cliff Duvernois (48:20):
Man. That’s awesome brother. And I really do appreciate you carving time out because like I said, you’re, you’re a national figure and I’m just so pleased that I was able to get so much of your time today for you to come and share your story with us. So thank you. Just thank you for everything you’ve done. Thank you for inspiring so many people, myself included. And I’m sorry, I guess I did go fanboy on you after all, but you know, like I said before, thank you so much. I really do appreciate it. Thank you, sir.
Travis Mills Travis Mills Foundation (48:48):
No, I appreciate you. Have a great day and thanks again for your time.
Speaker 5 (48:52):
Hey everyone. Just a quick editor’s note. The Memorial day five K was rescheduled to August 9th visit Travis mills foundation.org for more details.
About The Host
About The Host
Cliff is the host of “The Call of Leadership” podcast. He has published over 500 short stories over Facebook, Medium and LinkedIn. He is a passionate lifelong learner, marketer and philanthropist. He currently lives in Reese, Michigan with his fiancé Sherry and her two children.