Travis Mills Foundation Ambassador Specialist (Retired) Kyle Casler served in the U.S. Army for four years as an 11B Infantry soldier. During his time in service, Kyle earned the Army Commendation Medal (2nd award), Purple Heart, Army Achievement Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Parachutist Badge.
Kyle has what he calls “small town syndrome.”
“I wanted to get out of my bubble and get some life experience as well as a better view of the world. At that age and point in my life, I figured joining the military was the best way to achieve that goal.”
While on a second deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, Kyle was injured.
“Our unit was setting up a support by fire position for the mission we were on,” Kyle said. “We happened to be maneuvering on a village that hadn’t encountered coalition in some time. Even though the area where we were setting up had been cleared, I ended up stepping on a pressure switch activated IED (improvised explosion device).”
From the explosion, Kyle had to options of moving forward. Doctors could try to save his limb – with no guarantee of success, or they could amputate.
“My girlfriend at the time, and now my wife, encouraged me to amputate,” Kyle said. “I was in a state of shock. She was my first phone call and wholesomely supported a decision to amputate.”
From his injury, Kyle faces a left below the knee amputation, tinnitus, TBI (traumatic brain injury), and PTS (post-traumatic stress).
While recovering and post recovery, Kyle experienced many struggles – some still to this day.
“Immediately following my medical discharge from the Army, I felt lost in a sense. I struggled with figuring out my new purpose in life.”
This is common for many veterans. Many individuals find a sense of identity and belonging in the military community that is not as common in the civilian life.
“I was quick to anger, as a result of PTS coupled with Adjustment Disorder. I was often very anxious which led to a state of hyper vigilance that was mentally exhausting.”
Kyle also deals with residual leg pain and phantom limb pain that has a strong impact on his anger and anxiety along with memory retention and difficulties sleeping.
“Family and friends were crucial to my quality of recovery,” Jeffrey said. “Just by visiting me in the hospital, I felt an immense sense of relief as well as support that turned into a motivational factor when it came to recovery.”
TRAVIS MILLS FOUNDATION
SSG (Ret.) Travis Mills and Kyle were both assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division 4th Brigade Combat Team when they were injured.
“I believe he was in the 47-3 Calvary Division, and I was in the 1-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment,” Kyle said. “Throughout my recovery, I would run into Travis, mostly at the MATC (Military Advanced Training Center) or Chow Hall. It didn’t take long to hear about the idea of the Travis Mills Foundation from other veterans who had been at Walter Reed.”
Kyle and his family attended the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat for the first time in summer 2019 and again in 2021. They have also been fortunate to participate in the off-site program at the Atlanta Aquarium and participate in the Coca-Cola Factory tour.
“Some of my absolute favorite experience while at the Veterans Retreat were watching my kids interact with other children of [recalibrated] veterans. It was heartwarming for me to see them realize there are other people like me. They were able to make connections and quick friendships with other children on the pure aspect that their parents shared similar injuries.”
Some of the best relationships are formed between families who come to the TMF Veterans Retreat and bond with other families who experienced some form of trauma.
“My experience at the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat has been extremely rewarding, healing, exciting, fun, relaxing, and memorable. It is a place that my family have been fortunate to attend multiple times and we feel over the moon every single time. My youngest even calls it their “vacation home.” It is a place where we can go to feel included, partake in a plethora of activities, relax, and most importantly come closer together as a family.”
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 >>>