Travis Strong: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”

Don’t judge a book by its cover. When one sees a person with a traumatic injury out and about, don’t let a wheelchair define their existence. You wouldn’t believe how one can blow your mind Don’t hesitate to ask about one’s injury. Speaking for myself, the more I share my story, the less it has a […]

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Don’t judge a book by its cover. When one sees a person with a traumatic injury out and about, don’t let a wheelchair define their existence. You wouldn’t believe how one can blow your mind

Don’t hesitate to ask about one’s injury. Speaking for myself, the more I share my story, the less it has a hold on me.

As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Travis Strong, US Army SSgt (Retired).

Travis Strong, US Army SSgt (Retired), is a double above the knee amputee currently training for an April climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Travis was raised in the greater Los Angeles area by a single mom with his siblings in Burbank, CA and grew up in the greater Los Angeles area. He found early interests in football, dirt biking, and MMA fighting, where he competed at the open class level.

After the tragedy of September 11th, Travis re-enlisted in the Army. In 2006, while deployed with the U.S. Army in Baghdad, Travis was sitting in the turret of the Stryker when his vehicle was hit by an EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator), tearing through the metal siding and hitting Travis’ legs.

Recovery at Walter Reed was a long and painful process. Travis ended up losing his left leg as well, and is now a double above knee amputee. He endured pain in many ways: physical, emotional, and mental. One of the things he struggled with the most were the “what ifs”. Instead of pushing everything down into a dark place, Travis started sharing his story. As he shared, the pain began to slowly shift to healing and it has played a critical role on his journey towards recovery.

Today, Travis embodies what it means to “Defy Impossible”. He doesn’t let anything stop him by accomplishing his goals, including a lot of outdoor hiking. He has already summited several mountains in the U.S. and his next challenge is Mount Kilimanjaro in April 2021.

To aid with achieving that goal, Travis is currently training at Adaptive Training Foundation (ATF), a 501c3 adaptive therapy organization based in Dallas, Texas. ATF is a leader in restoring hope through movement to those with traumatic injuries. Their programs are 100% free to those taking part thanks to the kindness of donations.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Around five to six years ago I watched a video about The Adaptive Training Foundation (ATF), an organization that empowers people with physical impairments to maximize their capabilities and redefine their futures through exercise and community. Their purpose resonated and I always felt it would be great to be a part of their organization. A few years ago, I was determined to complete 60 days of Murph. For those that are not familiar, it is an exercise, typically done every Memorial Day, that was named in memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, who was killed in Afghanistan on June 28th, 2005. The workout, which Lt. Murphy created and originally named Body Armor, consists of a mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, and another mile run. A Murph is meant to be completed as quickly as possible. Over the course of 60 days, one completes 6,000 pullups, 12,000 push-ups, 9,000 squats and 120 miles.

Spoiler: it isn’t easy. I wanted to hold myself accountable, so I did live videos of my workouts. People would watch and share how the videos inspired them to consider goals of their own it brought me back to my earlier desire of wanting to work with ATF and train people with disabilities. I moved to Texas to be closer to the organization and have realized that dream by becoming a trainer with the organization and helping others that are working to overcome barriers.

Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?

I always pushed myself as a person. After my injury I went through lots of emotions for years. I came to a point where I told myself that I could either live the best life with who I am, or I would ultimately let myself die. That moment was an awakening that I needed to make the choice of a mental shift to live the best I could. I learned to realize that I could still do all the things I loved to do — just differently. I’ve always thrived in the “pain zone”. I love doing things that are extreme as they make me feel alive. One day I’ll look back on all I’ve accomplished and know that I’ve had an exciting existence.

Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability?

I shared the 60 Murphs in 60 days earlier. I’ve also done 3 marathons on hand bikes, 4 Tough Mudder races, 3 Spartan Races and 6 Manitou incline climbs. I’ve also hopped to the top of Pikes Peak. My next accomplishment will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in April 2021.

What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?

There are no limitations. The only real limitations are what you set for yourself. For myself, I have no legs, so my perceived limitation is that the inability to walk comes with the inability to participate in activities where legs are a predetermined requirement. As my accomplishments show, you can find ways to do anything, just different. There truly is no limit. Focus on ways you can do things different, and you too find that there is always a way.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My stepdad definitely. He raised me to be the person I am now. He served in the Vietnam war and was a big influence of why I wanted to join the military. I give him credit as to where I am now.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to make everything I do visible so that people can see what I’m doing and extend the reach for others to see that anything is possible. All it takes is a start. Many send me messages and ask how they too can start to bring change and I say, “just get up”. Just get your body going. So many are misguided: told by family and doctors what they can’t or will never do. I say, “well yeah? Well watch”. I can share plenty of stories of people who were told they were never going to walk again, and they are doing it.

Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.

  • We are just like everyone else and want to be treated like everyone else. Having an injury doesn’t mean we’re going to break or fall apart.
  • Don’t want people to feel sorry for us
  • We can do anything — we are not limited. Not limited by visible limitation
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover. When one sees a person with a traumatic injury out and about, don’t let a wheelchair define their existence. You wouldn’t believe how one can blow your mind
  • Don’t hesitate to ask about one’s injury. Speaking for myself, the more I share my story, the less it has a hold on me.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

I don’t really have a motto, more of a life rule. Live the best that you can.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

David Goggins is one of my idols. For those who are not familiar with him, David is a retired Navy SEAL and the only member of the U.S. Armed forces to complete SEAL training, U.S. Army Ranger School and Air Force tactical Air Controller training. He’s also an accomplished endurance athlete and public speaker. He’s a phenomenal guy who I would love to meet.

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