Alexandria In the weeks leading up to the 2014 GI Film Festival, the buzz was all about actor and veterans advocate Gary Sinise appearing at the May 23 Salute to Hollywood Patriots night at the Old Town Theatre. But by the end of the evening, it was Army Staff Sergeant and quadruple amputee Travis Mills that left everyone starstruck.
“I have never seen my son be so moved by anyone he had just met,” said Alexandria Cupcake owner Adnan Hamidi of his 12-year-old son Josh's meeting with Mills. “My son was mesmerized by Travis' speech and the intimate conversation he had with him. It was a real tear jerker moment for us when Travis gave Josh a big hug at the end of the night.”
After nearly dying on an Afghanistan battlefield, Mills walked the red carpet in Alexandria to attend a screening of “Travis: A Soldier's Story,” a documentary that details his story as one of only five quadruple amputees to survive from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Don't feel sorry for me,” Mills told a mesmerized crowd following a screening of the film at the Old Town Theatre. “I just want to be normal.”
A member of the 82nd Airborne, Mills lost portions of both arms and legs as the result of an IED explosion on April 12, 2012, during his third combat deployment to Afghanistan.
“I hope this documentary is inspiring, not only for other wounded soldiers but for everyone struggling with obstacles in their lives,” Mills said. “It's about perseverance and challenging ourselves to look at the way we deal with our own personal trials in life.”
At the time of his injury, Mills and his wife Kelsey's daughter Chloe was just 7 months old.
“Travis has such a will to live that he defied odds by conquering and overcoming his obstacles,” Hamidi said. “His passion to live for his daughter and wife is what kept him going. He said he wants to make sure he walks his daughter down the aisle when she gets married and I have no doubt that he will do it.”
Joining Mills and Sinise on stage were U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and the sister and college roommate of the late actor James Gandolfini, who was presented with the GI Film Festival Spirit Award for his work profiling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the documentary “Wartorn.”
But in the end it was Mills that had everyone talking.
“I was a real honor meeting Travis Mills,” Hamidi said. “Because of him, my son saw firsthand that no obstacle is big enough to stand in your way when you want something bad enough. Travis Mills, we all salute you.”