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Minnesota National Guard
Former Minnesota Guardsman Continues Service Outside of the Uniform

Mike Mills ST PAUL, Minn - Every Service member has a journey that is unique to their military service Some deploy to a combat zone multiple times, while others never step foot into one Maintaining mental health readiness is one area that all Service members have in common

One former Minnesota Guardsman is doing his part to help veterans seek help through his work with several veterans' service organizations

Retired Staff Sgt Mike Mills, a Freeport native, understands the mental challenges that veterans can face as he has experienced them first-hand In 2005, Mills was deployed with the Minnesota National Guard's 434th Main Support Battalion when he was severely injured by an improvised explosive device The explosion cracked his clavicle, broke multiple foot and scapula bones and he suffered third degree and deep tissue burns on more than 30 percent of his body He was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries

Upon his return home, Mills blamed himself for some of his injuries He sought out help from his family and a psychiatrist It wasn't only Mills that needed assistance, but his family also had to navigate the experience along with him

"I blamed myself for being injured," Mills recalled "There was a point where I gave up, but my wife brought me back Once I got back after being injured, I knew I couldn't serve anymore," said Mills "This is my way to still serve and support the veterans"

Mills' passion for helping veterans not only stems from his own recovery experience, but also from losing five military friends to suicide This led him to start a non-profit 'For the Veteran, By a Veteran' and volunteering with multiple organizations

One of those organizations is the Center for Independent Living, which saw a significant need for a retreat center that enables veterans to reconnect with their families, heal from trauma experienced during their service, cope with any service-related disability and adjust to civilian life Mills says he's able to see a difference in the veterans from when they arrived to when they left

"Coming together with other veterans helps them realize they're not the only ones that have the issues with PTSD, depression and anxiety," Mills stated

"I see when they come in the door, especially when they come in with their spouse, how distant they are," Mills shared "They're together, but they're distant And then when they leave, three days later, I see how much closer they are"

Mills shares with the participants how cultivating openness in his relationship with his wife helped him heal during his recovery His wife, Suki also facilitates with him at the Camp Bliss couples retreat

His advice to any warriors who might be struggling is to seek help, whether it be through the VA, your battle buddies, friends or family

Dustin Oosten, a veteran and a family and marriage therapist who volunteers during the retreats at Camp Bliss, said Minnesota is among the leading states providing care for returning Service members Resources are available for both those who have served and their families, but reaching out when in need is key

"All injured veterans have our 'reborn day,'" said Mills "The beginning of a new life"

To learn more about Camp Bliss, visit wwwCampBlissorg

October 14, 2015
by Sgt Dajon Ferrell
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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