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2024 Travis Strong
US Army

Branch of Service: Army E6 SSG 11 years

 

Bio: Travis grew up north of Los Angeles with a yen for speed and adventure. He played high school football as a strong safety and raced dirt bikes on the high desert flat lands. The stepson of a Vietnam veteran, he had always wanted to be part of the military and proudly joined the U.S. Army in 1997. Strong was stationed in Italy, honorably discharged in 2000. But the routine slack of civilian life was not for him. When the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11, Travis re-enlisted with the Army’s First Stryker Brigade, named after the ceramic-armored mobile combat vehicle designed to protect troops from all but the most potent explosives. On November 27, 2006, two days after Thanksgiving, Travis’ unit was on night patrol in their Stryker rolling down an empty street near Baghdad. Travis, the vehicle commander, was seated in the middle of the Stryker. Without warning, a powerful EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator) bomb engulfed the eight-wheeled vehicle. A quiet road turned into hell on earth. “I remember the smoke, the smell, the fire, and everyone yelling,” Travis said. His right leg was gone. His left leg was mangled. “I don’t remember any blood or not seeing my leg or feeling any pain,” he said. “I just knew I was hurt very badly. It was the worst experience anyone could feel: that dread of dying, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.” His lungs collapsed. The men were shouting for Strong to breathe. He was fading in and out of consciousness. Strykers travel in groups. This time, a soldier from Colorado took off solo, smashing into cars and anything else in the way to get the dying sergeant to the field hospital at Camp Liberty. “I was in limbo, fading in and out,” he said. “They were asking me questions, but I don’t remember my answers. I could feel my clothes being cut off.” He would flat-line four times. His left leg was lost. He woke up in a Baghdad hospital drugged, dazed and confused. The battalion commander and chaplain reassured him, “You’re still with us, you’re alive.” Travis drifted away. Next time, his eyes opened to a group of familiar men – his platoon lining the room. “It was really cool to see them, but also a very somber moment,” he said. “My driver, who had become a good friend, couldn’t look at me. He sat on the edge of the bed, his head down. It was hard for all of us.” Travis was sent to a military hospital in Germany. He then shipped back to the U.S. to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Then it was a transfer to the Navy’s Balboa Hospital in San Diego, which was closer to family and friends. He endured painful complications from bone growth and skin graphs on his leg. Emotionally, too, the first year following the blast was very difficult. “I went through every emotion: anger, sadness, depression and despair,” he said. “But I never gave up. I knew everything had changed, but this was also the start of a new life.” The faith-based Wild River Ranch, supported by the Green Family of Hobby Lobby, became a respite for relaxation and fun. He learned how to snow ski, tackling the most difficult black diamond slopes. He now plays sled hockey, competes in obstacle course races, bike marathons and jumps from airplanes.

Injuries: Double bilateral above the knee amputations

 

MC Experience: "I grew up racing dirtbikes! I would love to get back into that again. I have never road on the street...well once I did when I was a teenager. But I would love to get into that was well! being able to get out and ride again would be such a help to my emotional state!"

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