The road every college student takes to complete their degree is never an easy one. It’s full of trying times, late night study sessions, and early morning exams that can certainly be stressful. Whether they know it or not, the more than 130 Unity College graduates receiving diplomas on Saturday, May 11, all persevered using the mantra of the College’s esteemed 2019 commencement speaker, retired Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills: “Never give up. Never quit.”
SSG Mills has told his inspiring story of perseverance all over television (including Ellen, NBC Nightly News, and Fox News) after losing all four limbs to an IED on his third tour of Afghanistan. Mills is one of only five quadruple amputees to survive their injuries received in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he documented his road to recovery in his memoir Tough as They Come, a New York Times Best Seller.
It took fourteen hours of surgery, nine doctors, seven nurses — two of which were dedicated to pumping air in and out of his lungs — and 30 blood transfusions to keep Mills alive. When he finally came to days later on his 25th birthday, the first words out of his mouth were: “How are my soldiers?” Finding out they would be fine, his brother-in-law broke the news to Mills that he wasn’t paralyzed but was, in fact, a quadruple amputee. He became angry and upset, but found the motivation to carry on in his wife and six-month-old daughter.
After returning to the United States for an intense recovery process, which Mills says is an ongoing process every single day, he founded the Travis Mills Foundation based in Rome, Maine to assist combat-injured veterans. In addition to assisting wounded veterans, Mills worked closely with many victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, helping to guide them following amputation, just as other amputees had done for him. Mills also consults with and speaks to companies and organizations nationwide inspiring others to overcome life’s challenges and adversity, no matter what form that may take.
“It is certainly no exaggeration when I refer to Staff Sergeant Mills as a national treasure,” said Unity College President Dr. Melik Peter Khoury. “Having watched his story of recovery both physically and mentally unfold on television, I not only find Travis to be a remarkable human being, but also a genuine person who is a natural-born leader. He has a knack for inspiring everyone he comes in contact with, and he can almost always get them to smile or laugh, no matter what it is they’re going through. I can’t wait for our graduates to hear him speak.”
“I am extremely honored to be giving the commencement speech at Unity College, in my home state!” said Mills. “I look forward to sharing my story with the 2019 graduating class, and I hope to inspire resiliency and drive as they enter the workforce or graduate school.”
Dr. Khoury said Mills will receive an Honorary Doctorate in Sustainability Science before addressing the candidates for graduation from America’s Environmental College.
“From here, our graduates will travel all over the world, pursuing careers that they’re passionate about or seek further education,” said Dr. Khoury. “I think that the words and story of Travis will stay with them well after they receive their diploma, and they’ll find ways to apply it in all that they do.”
Commencement exercises begin at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 11. The ceremony, which happens to be Unity College’s 50th May Commencement, is open to Unity College graduates and their guests. The ceremony and speeches will be streamed on the Unity College Facebook page.