Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Daniel Burgess grew up a self-proclaimed military brat.
He was active duty with the Army in 1996 and served until 2000; he then served with the Army Reserve from 2000 to 2003. After he re-entered the Reserve in 2010, he was deployed a year later to the Middle East and where he experienced devastating and life changing injuries.
“While on patrol with Fox Company, 2/4 Marines, I was assisting with intel collecting and gathering information while they were locating IEDs,” Burgess said. “We were in an alley waiting for an IED to be disarmed when I stepped on an IED while talking to a local national.”
The explosion not only resulted in his right leg being amputated below the knee, but he also sustained significant damage and multiple fractures to his right hand and fingers, a traumatic brain injury, complete degloving of the inside of his left leg requiring multiple skin grafts, damage to his left foot and ankle, hearing loss and post traumatic stress.
“To be honest, it was a living hell,” Burgess said. “Having to learn how to walk again and adapt to a new way of life was the hardest of all.”
His rehabilitation involved many surgeries.
“It felt that for every step forward, there were two steps back,” he said. “The mental stress and not being able to do things was a huge let down.”
Recovery after such an injury is vigorous, indeed.
Before coming to the Travis Mills Foundation, COO Kelly Roseberry worked with recovering veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
“Recovery is a life long process- and it’s not linear,” she said. “The overall process for people like Dan tends to trend upwards, but there will forever be hiccups and setbacks for them to continue to conquer along the way.”
“These men and women have to discover their ‘new normal,’ – what life is going to look like after their injuries,” she added. “Limbs aren’t growing back, some injuries are permanent, so they have to learn how to accommodate these differences moving forward. But that doesn’t mean they have to be limited by them.”
“It was hard to interact with the world again,” Burgess added.
However, Burgess credits his family with moving forward.
“I also had a great therapist (who is friends with Kelly and I think a little meaner) who kept me on the right path,” he said, laughing.
The Travis Mills Foundation
Burgess attended the first-ever winter programming in 2017 at the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat. In summer 2018, he, along with his wife, Genette, daughters Gracie and Kaylee and service dog SGT, visited the retreat once again.
“It was really good to be there together as a family,” he said. “We are close knit and it gave us a hard reset on a lot of things that we needed.”
“The best part is the atmosphere of it all – to be around people who understand and accept you,” Burgess said.
Recovery and Staying Healthy
Burgess said his recovery is still ongoing, 11 years after his injury.
“It’s a daily process,” he said. “I set goals and things happen as I tackle them, then I just seem to lose the willpower to achieve that goal.”
Whether it be eating healthy or sticking to a workout routine, Burgess said he tends to lose focus and has to battle with his own mind when it comes to his physical ability. Programs at the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat focus on both the body and mind. The new Health and Wellness Center will offer increased options for both once opened in summer 2022.
Burgess prefers to workout at home vs. a public gym where he lives in Cape Coral, Florida, as he has chronic open wounds and is at high risk of infection.
He’s currently working with a recreational therapist to establish a workout routine that includes strength training with weights and bands, core, cardio and yoga. Burgess has injured himself with pulled muscles and strains in the past, trying on his own to adapt equipment.
“I didn’t know how to properly use it for my amputation and injuries,” he added.
Burgess said the new Health and Wellness Center at the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat is going to help so many veterans avoid some of these mistakes.
“It’ll be especially helpful for transitioning to being at home,” he said, adding that certain pieces of equipment are easier to have at home, such as free weights, bikes, treadmills and rowers.
TRX equipment will be available at the Center, which Burgess said is something a recalibrated veteran can easily incorporate into a home gym.
“It’s simple, light, portable, it takes up no space and can even be used on a door,” he said. “This is helpful because it’s an inexpensive, all-body workout that is good for the whole family to use, but’s it’s simply using your own body weight.”
Burgess said the entire family can benefit from learning a fitness routine at the Center.
“I think if the whole family is incorporated, it will be greatly beneficial for everyone,” Burgess said. “Us, the veteran, is the driving force, and it would greatly improve the health for the whole family.”
Burgess’s wife, his “soulmate” as he describes her, also serves as his caregiver. He said if she learned how to best adapt everyday equipment, her role in his recovery would be a more educated one and in fact, her health would improve too based on her participation.
Family is Burgess’s most vital motivator to stay healthy.
“To be there for them now and in the future,” he said. “And for myself. So I can feel that I have the power to do everything I need and complete all the tasks at hand.”
About the TMF Health and Wellness Center
The Travis Mills Foundation will open its new Health and Wellness Center in summer 2022. After recalibrated veterans were injured, they rehabbed on ultramodern fitness equipment that they would never see again once their recovery was over. While it was vital for their recovery at the time, it doesn’t help them now when they go to their local gym, pool, or home gym.
It’s our goal to fill the new center with state-of-the-art, but mainstream fitness equipment that veterans who visit the retreat will be able to learn how to use. They can then take these skills home with them to maintain healthy lifestyles beyond their visit to the retreat.
It’s our goal to not only teach them how to adapt this mainstream equipment to their needs, but to encourage their entire family to join in or assist in their veteran’s fitness journey.