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GBHS alum featured in George W. Bush’s new book, “Portraits of Courage”

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Most of us never think about what it takes to keep us safe, but there is a cost that heroes pay.

Christopher (Spencer) Milo graduated from Granite Bay High School 2003 where he was involved with the soccer program and enlisted in the U.S. Army as an Airborne Infantryman in 2006.

“Growing up I had always known I would like to serve at some point. Both of my grandfathers served during World War II and I wanted to keep that tradition in the family,” Milo said in an email.

Milo’s grandfather on his dad’s side was a marksmanship instructor in the Army during World War II.

“My mother’s father was a World War II submariner and was my hero growing up,” Milo said. “He was probably my biggest influencer in my decision.”

Like Pearl Harbor was to his grandfather, 9/11 is the day that lives in infamy for him.

“9/11 was of course an incredible influence. I remember pulling up to school and getting a call to come home and as we all did, watched in horror as the day transpired,” Milo said. “Family and friends have always been the most important thing to me, so I knew I wanted to stand up and protect them and our way of life.”

Reflecting back on his time at GBHS, Staff Sergeant Milo said he was not the greatest student.

“I was more distracted by being a teenager and having fun at the time. I would not say I regret this, but I would have definitely done things differently if I could go back,” Milo said. “So after high school, I tried the college route in San Luis Obispo for a couple years and after realized I was not ready for school yet.”

He made the decision to join the Army in 2006, and in 2008, while deployed in Iraq, Milo was injured causing a tumor to form in his brain.

“My first recovery was rough, I was told that I had six months to live and was medicated into a near coma for 7-9 months, while I fought for a second opinion at UCSF Med Center,” Milo said.

He went through severe bouts of depression and suicidal ideation, including becoming a severe recluse in addition to experiencing seizures, memory loss and other symptoms due to his Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

“I went from being at the pinnacle of my career and health to what seemed to be an irreversible spiral towards death,” Milo said.

After recovering and being cleared for active duty, Milo deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.

His second recovery cycle was much different as was the cause.

“My second official traumatic brain injury, being blown up by a child suicide bomber, took a strong mental toll on me as well as the physical toll,” Milo said.

He spent a lot of time in recovery at Walter Reed and at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed. This injury ultimately led to him having to medically retire in 2013.

Milo’s path to recovery was helped by his family.

“My family was the most important piece of my recovery,” Milo said. “Without them I would have had no drive to push through the hard times. Family is the most important thing in life, whether it is your biological family or the people you surround yourself with that you consider family. No matter what, you are never alone.”

He is thankful that his transition into the civilian sector was much easier than that of many of his brothers and sisters in arms.

“When I found out I was going to be forced into retirement I went through a lot of emotions ranging from anger, rage, depression and confusion – really the whole gamut,” Milo said. “I was lucky enough to be able to swallow my pride and ask for help. I received help from both friends and family in the sense of being pushed to keep working and never to quit.”

Hire Heroes USA is a non-profit organization that offers assistance to transition service members and their spouses.

“I was lucky enough to fall into one of their transition workshops which was incredibly helpful,” Milo said.

Milo has since spent three and a half years continuing to serve our country and his brothers and sisters in arms working for Hired Heroes USA.  

“I have dedicated the rest of my life to speaking and advocating for the veteran population in order to ensure they all get the treatment they earned with their service to this country,” Milo said.

He has since taken a position with a cause even more passionate to him. As the Director of Veteran Programs, Communication and Strategic Development for the Marcus Institute for Brain Health, he is able to help those experiencing TBI and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“I used to dislike telling my sob story but have since realized how important it is to share it,” Milo said. “So many have given the ultimate sacrifice and have had it worse than me, but not everyone is able or willing to share their stories.”

“I am convinced that people need to understand that they are not alone in their struggles and have had many people honor me by saying that hearing me speak out has given them the strength and motivation to ask for help themselves.”

Milo first met President George W. Bush at President Bush’s ranch in 2014, and since has become friends with him.

“He is a man that I have held the utmost respect for when he was my Commander in Chief, and now as a good friend,” said Milo. “He is ten times more genuine and as good of a person as you would hope for. I am honored and humbled to call him family.”

On Feb. 28, 2017, President George W. Bush released his book Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, which features Milo’s story on page 126.

“Being included in the President’s most recent book has been an incredible honor and has been beyond humbling,” Milo said.

When President George W. Bush first asked Milo if he was willing to be painted by him, Milo thought that it was a joke. But, currently Milo has one of President Bush’s paintings in his home and there is another of him at President Bush’s library in Dallas.

“I am so grateful to say I know a large number of the brave men and women in this book and to call them my friends,” Milo said. “It is honestly a bit difficult to put into words how humbled and honored I am to be in the book.”

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GBHS alum featured in George W. Bush’s new book, “Portraits of Courage”