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Tom Sileo's op-ed column: The Unknown Soldiers.
From left, Tom Sileo, Ryan Manion, and Travis, Chloe, and Kelsey Mills.
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ATLANTA--More than 20 million people tuned in for the season finale of "American Idol" on May 23. While the program's ratings are down, many continue to obsess over every detail of a glorified talent show, even while tens of thousands of U.S. troops fight in Afghanistan.
With all due respect to Phillip Phillips, the winner of this year's contest, I got to meet a real celebrity on May 24 in Bethesda, Md. His name is Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, and the wounded warrior represents all that is good about our country.
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is a place where startling examples of our military's post-9/11 sacrifices are tragically commonplace. While walking through the enormous facility's long hallways, I saw several wounded warriors--many with
Many of these heroes are barely old enough to buy a beer.
Staff Sgt. Mills is 25, and his wife, Kelsey, gave birth to their first child about seven months before an April 10 explosion robbed the soldier of both his arms and legs. I was holding their baby girl, Chloe, when the wounded Army paratrooper came out of the hospital elevator with his wife.
Seeing a young, handsome man without four limbs for the first time is a visceral experience. But not for one second did I look away, as I was proud to be in the company of someone who sacrificed so much to protect the families of civilians like me.
As I put my hand on his shoulder to say thanks, the Vassar, Mich., native looked up, smiled, and said five simple words.
"How's it going?" Staff Sgt. Mills said. "I'm Travis."
Perhaps the unique aspect of the visit was getting to see Travis interact with Ryan Manion. Ryan lost her brother, Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, 26, in Iraq on April 29, 2007. We visited the Mills family to show our support and provide emergency financial assistance from the Travis Manion Foundation.