The crowd that recently gathered to hear retired United States Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills speak at Peckham Inc. consisted of a variety of people, and everyone present could appreciate his story of courage and tenacity.
On Nov. 19, Mills, a native Michigander, spoke to two standing-room-only audiences about his experience as the fourth quadruple amputee from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Even more importantly, he focused on his personal motto: Never give up. Never quit.
In 2012, during his third deployment, Mills was critically injured by an improvised explosive device during what he called “a bad day at work.” Losing portions of both his arms and both legs, SSG Mills was saved by an on-site medic and rushed to further treatment. He is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive this type of injury.
For most of his presentation, rather than focusing on the day of the tragedy, Mills highlighted his rehabilitation process and an attempt to return to normalcy through both mental and physical perseverance.
Through months of intense physical therapy and healing, and unrequited support from his wife and daughter, Mills is now able to walk and drive with his prosthetics, helping him live as normal as possible. His family now inhabits a “smart house” in Maine – a house that operates off iPad commands, designed to help him with daily tasks. He looks forward to even more day-to-day progress in his future.
Mills’ motto to never give up and never quit is a relevant and poignant message for those seeking work. The job search process can be arduous, exhausting and defeating at times. It’s hard to deal with the rejection and frustration that can sometimes come with search day in and day out.
Peckham, the event host, is an organization Capital Area Michigan Works! proudly partners with. Peckham provides job training and employment opportunities to people with disabilities and those who face other barriers to employment. As troops continue to return home, Peckham’s Veteran Services department is more vital than ever.
Mills’ motto may be even more important for our veterans.
Earlier this year, the United States Department of Labor reported the nationwide unemployment rate for veterans was 6.6 percent in 2013. But this number does not paint a clear picture of the local job market for Michigan veterans. The unemployment rate of veterans varied by state, reaching over 10 percent in Michigan.
Veterans returning to this challenging job market often need help updating their resumes, contacting employers and setting up interviews. Those with disabilities face additional challenges in adjusting to their new normal.
Peckham’s Veteran Services acts as an advocate for veterans, encouraging businesses to hire American veterans while they transition back into the civilian workforce. Peckham recognizes the unique skills veterans possess and matches them with jobs that are applicable to skills they developed while serving our country. This includes jobs such as IT services, supply chain management positions and manufacturing positions.
Peckham and similar organizations are working hard to keep veterans active in the workforce. Progress has certainly been made, with the 2013 veteran unemployment rate dropping from 2012. Veterans with a service-connected disability had an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent, which is almost no different than the nationwide rate for veterans with no disability.
During his talk, Mills discussed the reasons why veterans make great employees. With their ability to get anywhere before the sun rises and dedication to the people around them, Mills promised employers would not be disappointed by veteran employees.
Mills has been able to accomplish more than he imagined since leaving treatment. Now that he’s home, he spends most of his time raising his daughter and visiting other veterans who are facing medical challenges. He has also established the Travis Mills Foundation, which assists injured veterans and their children.
Capital Area Michigan Works! gives priority to veterans and eligible spouses who visit our service centers, so be sure to let one of our staff members know if you are a veteran or eligible spouse. You served our country, and we would be honored to help you with any career and education needs.