Social & Domestic Issues

Snowboarding, skydiving quadruple amputee: ‘How selfish would it be if I gave up?’

Snowboarding, skydiving quadruple amputee: 'How selfish would it be if I gave up?'

After you digest the hideous story out of Santa Barbara, here’s a palate-cleanser of pure inspiration.  Retired Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills is the exact opposite of rage killer Elliott Rodger.  After writing at length on the sense of frustrated entitlement that drove Rodger, I hear celestial music when Mills talks about friends killed in battle and says, “How selfish would it be if I gave up?” Far from giving up, he’s snowboarding and doing parachute jumps with the Golden Knights team.

Mills made a huge impression on TV host Mike Rowe, whose impending CNN show “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” sounds like a better and better idea as its fall launch date approaches.  Mills was a fan of Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs” program while serving in Afghanistan, where a bomb cost him all four of his limbs.  Rowe wrote about their meeting on his Facebook page.  How would you feel after meeting a man who dismissed the loss of his arms and legs as yesterday’s news, to address the more urgent concern of when you might shoot some more episodes of your cancelled television show?

A profanity warning is necessary, because I think the conversation Rowe recounts must be transcribed verbatim:

I told the security guys to sit tight, and followed the guy down a long hallway, looking at my watch as we fast-walked into the backstage area. Then we ducked behind a blue curtain, and Travis Mills stood up to greet me. Actually, he kind of unfolded himself from a chair, and came toward me with a very wide smile. He then extended a prosthetic arm and offered a plastic hand, which I automatically shook.

“Mike Rowe! What an honor! I’m Travis Mills, and I’m very, very pleased to meet you.”

I’ve seen a lot of things over the years, and I’ve gotten good at pretending there’s nothing unusual when there clearly is. But I was completely unprepared for this.

“Ahh…shit,” I said. “What happened?”

“IED. Afghanistan.”

“Damn. I’m sorry.”

“No big deal. It’s been two years now. I’m good. Tell me something though – are you gonna do anymore Dirty Jobs?”

“Uhh…what?”

“Dirty Jobs, man! When are we gonna see some new ones?”

“Well Travis, that show was cancelled. I’m working on something new though that I think will be just as good. Maybe better.”

“Hey, that’s great! I got new legs and you got a new show! Tell me all about it!”

Hey, that’s great!  I got new legs, and you got…  Fill in something from your own life to replace Mike Rowe’s TV show, and whatever problems you’re having at the moment should assume the proper perspective.

Which gave Rowe plenty to think about on Memorial Day:

Fact is, Travis is missing more than a few original parts; he’s missing all traces of self-pity. And that’s presents a challenge for mortals like me. Because it’s a hell of a thing to feel put out because a crowd of fans are making me late for an important meeting, and then listen to a guy with no arms or legs tell me how lucky he is, and how much he appreciates all my hard work.

That’s called a gut-check, and I could use one from time to time. Especially on Memorial Day, when the biggest decisions I face are what to grill and which type of frosty beverage to enjoy. This year, as I resolve these and other important issues, I’ll think of Travis Mills. A guy who went out on a limb for me, in every way possible.

Despair is a formidable enemy, but it’s not invincible.  It lacks stamina, and it has a glass jaw.

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