Travis Mills Foundation Ambassador, Staff Sergeant (Retired) Daniel Burgess Jr. served in the U.S. Army, beginning as a Fire Direction Specialist, moving to Military Police, and retiring as a Psychological Operations Specialist.
During his time in service, he earned the Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with M Device, NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge.
Dan enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1996 upon graduation from high school. His young adult years were spent serving on Active Duty while stationed in Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Bamberg, Germany.
On September 11, 2001, Dan was on Army Reserve orders and working a civilian job in downtown Cleveland, Ohio – just four days out from marrying his wife of 21 years, Genette. When the planes crashed, he was placed on 30-minute recall orders – having to be ready to leave when his unit called.
“I still remember that day, very vividly,” Dan said. “I had to leave my, at the time, fiancé who was pregnant with my first daughter, to go pack my bags.”
During the next two years, both his daughters Gracie and Kaylee were born. When given the option to medically separate from the military due to a minor knee injury, he took it to spend time with his wife and girls. During his break in service, he worked as a Corrections Officer in the Cuyahoga County Jail.
Seven years later, Dan rejoined the Army Reserve.
“I missed it,” he said. “The comradery you experience in the civilian world is not the same.”
16 months after his re-enlistment in February 2010, Dan was on his first tour to Afghanistan.
“While out on Patrol on November 20, 2011, we were showing good faith to a village that was being turned over to the Afghan Police,” he said. “There were 42 suspected IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in the village. We found 10 prior to this day. During this day, we had found four more and were waiting on the fifth to be blown. At this time, I had an Afghan approach me from the rear and wanted to show me where [an IED] was located. When I placed him in front of me and took a step, I stepped on a three-to-five-pound IED.”
Dan sustained multiple injuries including a right leg below the knee amputation, left leg limb salvage with complete degloving, bilateral factures in his knees, left ankle injury, blast lung, compound fractures to his medial three fingers on his right hand, lacerations, bilateral eardrum ruptures, a cervical sprain, traumatic brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other injuries.
“I have had many struggles throughout recovery, and still do today,” Dan said. “I struggle with my TBI, memory, and the functions and changes in my life. Even though I am used to having a prosthetic leg, it is still a trial every day and also, functioning with the pain.”
Dan gives credit to his family and friends who have supported him throughout his recovery process.
“If it wasn’t for my kids and wife, I know for a fact I would not be here today,” Dan said. “Seeing them get up and move made me have to force myself to lead by example. My friends helped me with things I couldn’t do and kept the spirits up for both me and my family.”
TRAVIS MILLS FOUNDATION
In December 2017, after being impacted by Hurricane Irma, Dan and his family attended the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat located in the Belgrade Lakes region of Maine.
“It was amazing to be in an environment where my family and I were surrounded by other families who understood my injuries and our situation,” Dan said.
During their summer Retreat in August 2018, Dan was able to take part in the ropes course built by Mike Rowe.
“This was something before my injury that would have been easy,” Dan said. “Now, it was a little intimidating. But, it was amazing to see what I was able to do regardless of my injuries that I had, and limitations I had placed in my mind. It felt good to push myself.”
Some other activities Dan was able to participate in include fly tying, fishing, wood working, painting, a trip to the horse barn, Dew Haven Zoo, enjoy a massage, yoga, leather making, and many more.
Dan has also attended the Retreat in summer 2022, Never Give Up on Country concert in Ocala, Florida in 2021 and 2022, a trip to the Georgia Aquarium, and took part in Warrior PATHH in January 2023.
“Being able to see my family finally be able to relax and not worry about what I needed because everything was adapted was great. It was also great to be around like-minded people who have been through similar situations as my family.”
While recovery is an on-going process for Dan, he can make small improvements to help with his day to day life. One improvement was by participating in the Warrior PATHH – Progressive Alternative Training for Helping Heroes program founded at the Boulder Crest Foundation.
“My PTSD makes it difficult to function day to day in some situations and places.”
Through the Warrior PATHH program, Dan has been able to learn coping mechanisms to give him the courage to conquer his PTSD in healthy ways.
“My experience at Warrior PATHH was life changing,” Dan said. “It helped me to rediscover myself so I can better help those around me. It helped me to realize I am not alone.”
Warrior PATHH is available for veterans and first responders who experience PTSD from their time serving the United States both at home and across the ocean.
“Being able to attend the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat is a place where I can attend with my family to relax and grow together. There are not many organizations that allow my family to attend with me – this is where TMF excels.”
The Travis Mills Foundation is grateful for Daniel’s service and sacrifices to the United States.
ABOUT THE TRAVIS MILLS FOUNDATION
The Travis Mills Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports post 9/11 veterans who experienced life changing injuries while in service to our country. The Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat offers our nation’s recalibrated veterans and their families a week-long, barrier free, all expenses-paid experience at its world-class retreat in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine. It offers various programs that help these brave men and women overcome physical and emotional obstacles, strengthen their families, and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation. The Foundation also offers Warrior PATHH (Progressive & Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) for combat veterans and first responders, the nation’s first of its kind program designed to cultivate and facilitate post-traumatic growth. Learn more >>>