2013-10-31 / Around Town

Military Parent Wins Film Premiere for Newport

By Jack Kelly

Travis Mills and family overcome the physical and mental challenges of his injuries. Travis Mills and family overcome the physical and mental challenges of his injuries. There are victims of war that never wore a uniform, maneuvered a war machine, carried or fired a weapon, or bled on a battlefield. Yet they were deeply wounded by far-off wars in foreign lands. They are the fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, extended family members and friends of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen wounded or killed in battle while defending those of us at home. Those waiting at home are the ones who help to pick up the pieces of lives shattered by the stark reality and absolute brutality and horror of war.

Mike Tobiassen of Newport is a parent who knows the heavy heart and anguish of having a child in extreme harm’s way. His son, Alex Tobiassen, a member of the Rhode Island Army National Guard, was deployed to Afghanistan at the age of 18. He was injured in the line of duty and is currently in a Wounded Warrior program in Alexandria, Va. According to the elder Tobiassen, “Alex and I have a close relationship and I want to support him in any way I can. In late September, Alex told me about a documentary movie he’d seen on the Internet about a wounded warrior named Travis Mills. Mills is one of only five wounded warriors that have survived quadruple amputations in a combat zone. Alex was inspired by the film and asked if I could bring the movie to Newport so that people here could see what happens to soldiers and the inspirational story of Mills as he makes his way back. He told me that it was important to him because he couldn’t do it himself. It was important to him because of Travis and every other wounded warrior and for the young soldiers who aren’t coming home. He doesn’t want people to ever forget the wounded warriors, the soldiers who have died, or the Gold Star Mothers who’ve suffered the loss of a child.”

Mike Tobiassen and his son, Alex. Mike Tobiassen and his son, Alex. Driven by his son’s request and a father’s love, Tobiassen dove into his new mission. He didn’t have any movie experience but he wasn’t going to let that stop him. After viewing the movie he went to the website to contact the producer and the director. “They were setting up for the movie’s premiere in Texas at the time, but we connected and made arrangements to bring the film to Newport. I had to take a crash course in movie premieres, promotion, and logistics, but they helped me through that.”

The effort has required a large amount of set-up work and advertising that Tobiassen has happily undertaken. With the help of friends and the Rogers High School staff and junior ROTC, word of the premiere has spread. “Alex attended Rogers and he was a member of the JROTC. They have been wonderful and helpful in this endeavor. Alex’s mother has also helped get the word out through St. Philomena School where she teaches and where Alex was a student,” Tobiassen said.

Three weeks ago Tobiassen traveled to Virginia to visit his son and give him an update on the movie plans. “We had a good visit and traveled to Walter Reed Hospital to have lunch with Travis Mills. He is an amazing young man, full of spirit and striving every day to work hard at his rehab program. He gives hope and inspiration to so many, whether they are wounded warriors or not." After the movie screening, Travis will speak with the audience through Skype.

While seven weeks may not seem like enough time to plan an entire movie premiere from scratch, never underestimate the power of a father’s love and commitment to a child, even if he is a grown man.

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