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Tags: Veterans Day | veterans day | america | soldiers | military

Retired US Army Staff Sgt Travis Mills: Thank the Veterans

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By    |   Wednesday, 10 November 2021 02:25 PM

This Veterans Day, America will once again give thanks to the men and women who have bravely served our country. And rightfully so — I served alongside them during my time in the Army, including three tours in Afghanistan.

My experience in the Army taught me a lesson: it's not easy to serve. Don't get me wrong, it was an honor to protect the precious freedoms that we have.

\But service also comes with a price. During my tours, I spent a lot of time away from my wife, Kelsey, and my daughter, Chloe.

I also lost parts of my arms, and both of my legs, when I set my backpack on a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) during my third tour.

It changed my life forever, and the reason I'm alive is because of the brave servicemen and women who worked tirelessly to save me. I have them to thank for their sacrifices, and so do millions of Americans on the home front.

When I transitioned into civilian life, I had the support of my family, friends and colleagues. I also had the support of my fellow Americans, who acknowledged my sacrifices and offered me their encouragement and gratitude.

But the generation before me did not. I can't help but harken back to a time when our veterans weren't revered. And there isn't a group that exemplifies this more than America's Vietnam veterans.

These men and women were met with anger and hatred, not admiration. In the public's eyes, they were intimately connected to involvement in a conflict steeped in controversy. They were shunned, and in many cases forgotten, by the American people.

This treatment wasn't fair. They answered the call to service like I did. They suffered life-changing injuries like I did. They made sacrifices like I did.

But now I see that, as awful as it was, their mistreatment was not in vain. America, slowly but surely, has learned from that mistake. Now, we put our veterans first.

I still remember what it was like to come back from Afghanistan as a quadruple amputee. I felt scared, embarrassed, and hopeless. In shock about my new physical condition; I remember thinking: "How can I provide for my family like this? How can I possibly recover?"

And I know that my experience has been shared by thousands of others, including Vietnam veterans, who made the same sacrifices I did.

But when they came home from Vietnam, veterans struggled to recover from injuries like mine. They waited months, if not years, for government assistance and treatment.

My experience coming home from Afghanistan as a quadruple amputee couldn't have been any more different.

From the get-go, I was received with respect and honor, and more importantly, support.

With determination, I've made strides in my recovery in the years since becoming a quadruple amputee. With time, I've adapted to a new way of life. It hasn't been easy. But I did it not just for myself, but for my wife, and my now two children.

Vietnam veterans were largely not afforded the same outcomes as mine.

But since Vietnam, we've come a long way. Veterans are no longer demonized. My fellow veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq were given respect when they returned home. It didn't matter if our fellow Americans disagreed with our involvement there.

This shift in treatment, in attitude, toward our veterans of today is perhaps the best way to honor our veterans of the past, especially those from Vietnam.

But just because we've made progress doesn't mean we should rest on our laurels. Veterans from my generation, the post-9/11 generation, still need support now more than ever.

Every day, an average of 17 veterans die by suicide. That rate is highest among veterans ages 18 to 35, which is double that for the civilian population.

In the past twenty years, 7,057 men and women have died in combat as a result of the war on terror. But for veterans and active-duty personnel, about 30,177 have died by suicide in the same twenty-year time frame.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is all too common among veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, too. Anywhere from 11 to 20% of veterans from these conflicts suffer from PTSD in any year.

And since the fall of Afghanistan in August, a study reported that 64% of veterans from the conflict have had new or worsening thoughts of suicide.

As a veteran, these statistics are scary. But they're real. My fellow servicemen and women suffer wounds that aren't just physical — their traumas are mental and emotional, too.

But we can do all something about this problem.

My organization, the Travis Mills Foundation, supports and rehabilitates service-injured veterans and their families by hosting an all-expenses paid outdoor retreat at our facility in Maine.

We are also part of the Gary Sinise Foundation's Avalon Network, offering the Warrior PATHH program for post 9/11 Warriors and First Responders struggling with the invisible impact of trauma. Pre-9/11 veterans are eligible for the same program through the Boulder Crest Foundation at other sites.

And if they're struggling, the Department of Veterans Affairs has a Veterans Crisis Hotline. It's open 24 hours a day and can be reached by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1.

So, this Veterans Day, let's remember and thank our fellow Americans who have served. Let's acknowledge the enduring sacrifices they've made that have lasted beyond their call of duty. After all, these great United States are not nearly as great without our bravest.

Retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills of the 82nd Airborne is a recalibrated warrior, motivational speaker, actor, author and an advocate for veterans and amputees.

© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


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After all, these great United States are not nearly as great without our bravest.
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2021-25-10
Wednesday, 10 November 2021 02:25 PM
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