Olympic runner inspires crowd with motivational presentation
December 1, 2010
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS - "Look at Mills! Look at Mills! Look at Mills!" screamed the announcer during the 1964 Olympic 10,000-meter race, as a virtually unknown runner came from behind to pass the world-record holder in a win that is still considered one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.
Soldiers had an opportunity to "look at Mills" Tuesday, when William R. "Billy" Mills, the only American to ever win the 10,000-meter race in the Olympics, spoke at the Sgt. Smith Theater, here, in honor of Native American Indian Heritage Month.
Soldiers in the theater cheered as they watched the tape of Mills winning the race, as if it were happening in real time.
"It is amazing how much that one split second has resonated throughout the years," Mills said. "Through that one moment in time, I have been able to give back so much. I've been able to raise $650 million for charities worldwide."
Mills also expressed admiration for the American military.
"The U.S. Army, the Marines, the Air Force, all of our military personnel, you defend the dreams, the character, the duty, not just of America, but the world," he said. "I am always eternally grateful."
The audience gave Mills a standing ovation at the end of his talk.
"This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to meet him," said Denise Cuadrado, Triwest employee, who added that Mills has been her hero since she ran cross-country in college. "I wouldn't have missed it for the world."
Sgt. Antonio Woods, 643rd Engineer Company, 84th Eng. Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, had not heard of Mills before the event, but enjoyed his presentation.
"Very inspirational and very driven," Woods said. "It was a great motivation to hear his speech."
Mills is a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, was orphaned when he was 12 years old, attended the University of Kansas on an athletic scholarship and graduated with a degree in physical education. Mills joined the Marine Corps after graduation and was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve at the time of the 1964 Olympics.
Mills has also written two bestselling books with Nicholas Sparks, "Wokini: a Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self Understanding," and "Lessons of a Lakota."
Mills is a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, Track and Field Hall of Fame, National Distance Running Hall of Fame, Kansas Hall of Fame, San Diego Hall of Fame and National High School Hall of Fame.
The 130th Eng. Bde. and Team Equal Opportunity Hawaii hosted the event. They also presented a program of drumming and dance with the Oyate-Ki drummers and Intertribal dancers who together performed men's and women's traditional dances, a jingle dance and a hoop dance.