On April 10, 2012, just four days prior to his 25th birthday, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, of the 82nd Airborne Division, was critically injured by an IED (improvised explosive device) while on patrol in Afghanistan. Travis lost all four limbs in the explosion, but one thing he did not lose was his spirit.
As a former 82nd Airborne Paratrooper and Purple Heart Recipient, Rick Turner of Highland Village immediately knew he had to do something.
Turner and his wife, Tancy, began planning a motorcycle ride and benefit for Mills and his family. The Turners hoped to have at least 100 participants in the first motorcycle ride; more than 1,500 people showed-up. Through hard work, perseverance and many supporters, the Turners raised more than $38,000 for Mills and his family.
An outpouring of support and requests to continue on with fundraising efforts led the Turners to create the non-profit Spirit of a Hero Foundation. Mills has since joined the foundation’s Executive Board serving as chairman of the Selection Committee.
The 2013 Hero serviceman was Sgt. Jordan Folmar, also of the 82nd Airborne Division. On July 6, 2012, he stepped on an IED while clearing a building known for producing and storing the deadly weapons.
The blast resulted in the amputation of both legs above the knees. He underwent several surgeries while in Afghanistan and later in Germany, where he spent seven days in-and-out of the ICU. Once stable, he was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he lived with his mother while undergoing therapy.
“The Spirit of a Hero Foundation organization is dedicated to providing financial, moral and community support to critically-injured soldiers of the United States Armed Forces,” explained Turner. “Through community-driven activities, Spirit of a Hero helps raise awareness and give hope to the soldiers fighting for America’s freedom.”
The core of this foundation is Travis Mills’ spirit. Mills exceeded the doctor’s expectation of recovery time through sheer will and determination. When he first arrived at Walter Reed Medical Center in April 2012, Mills was told it would be about an 18-month recovery.
Mills had some very hefty goals, but had confidence he would welcome the first of his platoon home at Green Ramp, Fort Bragg, N.D., in August 2012. With amazing spirit and dedication, Mills stood proudly a mere four months later to welcome his troops at Green Ramp on August 29.
“In our opinion, every man and woman who serves in our military to protect our freedom is a hero,” Turner reports. “We hope that every one of them also has the spirit that Travis Mills has shown again and again; the Spirit of a Hero!”
The 3rd Annual Spirit of a Hero Motorcycle Ride & Benefit Concert is on Saturday, May 17.
The 2014 fundraiser will benefit Staff Sgt. Marcus Burleson of Weatherford, Texas. He is a 12-and one-half-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, the final six-years as an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal—“bomb squad”) Technician.
Burleson was critically injured on Dec. 9, 2011, just north of Sangin, Afghanistan, while on patrol for possible IEDs. He had successfully rendered the first device safe, but as he was working on the second device, it detonated while he was kneeling over it.
Burleson spent the following two weeks in a coma. When he awoke in Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., he found his blast injuries included amputations to both of his arms (right mid-forearm and left above the elbow), a broken neck, several broken facial bones– including his jaw. He also lost total vision in his left eye and suffered burns to his face, neck and left shoulder, plus nerve damage to the remainder of his left arm leaving it completely paralyzed.
The proceeds from this year’s fundraiser will be used to remodel Burleson’s home to accommodate his injuries.
The starting location for the 2014 fundraiser is Ricky Bobby Sports Saloon and Restaurant, 2200 NE Loop 820, in Fort Worth. Day-of-event registration begins at 9 a.m. and the ride starts at 11 a.m. The ride will end at Rick Fairless’ Strokers Dallas and its adjoining Ice House, 9304 Harry Hines Blvd., in Dallas and will feature a concert by Saints Eleven.
Early registration, donations and additional information is available at spiritofahero.org.