Lions get an inspirational visit at practice

Posted Oct 10, 2012

United States Army Staff Sargent Travis Mills may have lost portions of both legs and both arms in an IED explosion in Afghanistan six months ago, but the Michigan native and long-time Lions fan hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

Mills, who grew up in Vassar, was a special guest at Lions practice Wednesday and had a little fun at the expense of some players and coaches.

After practice a group of players surrounded Mills as he was showing them one of his prosthetic hands, which he told them moves by voice command. Mills showed them how it worked and then invited some of the players and coaches to try it it out, saying a few commands themselves. When the hand didn’t move, Mills said maybe their voices weren't manly enough to activate it and they should try saying it a little deeper - some of them actually did.

But really, the hand is pressure sensitive, so, of course Mills was pulling a fast one. Everyone had a good laugh, even those victimized in the prank.

Having Mills at practice Wednesday can certainly put a 1-3 start to a football season into perspective. It also likely made any knee injuries, sore hamstrings or bumps and bruises a little less painful.

Mills, only the fourth quadruple amputee from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive his injuries, was laughing, joking around and appreciative of the Lions letting him come to practice.

But what Mills might not have realized is that it was the coaches, players and anyone else who got the opportunity to talk to him Wednesday, who were appreciative of him, and probably inspired.

Mills was in his third tour in Afghanistan with the famed 82nd Airborne when he was injured. He said he woke up four days later in a hospital in Germany on April 14 – his birthday – and is currently rehabbing at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center near Washington D.C.

Mills said his ultimate goal after rehab is to get back to total independence and someday rejoin the 82nd Airborne in some capacity.

“I want to get back to work,” he said. “I definitely want to be an instructor still and we’ll see how that goes. If it’s working with soldiers every day then I’ll do it.”

You can learn more about Mills at