This Vet Opened a Free Vacation Retreat for America’s Military Families

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This Vet Opened a Free Vacation Retreat for America’s Military Families

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“Our goal is to provide our veterans with an incredible place where they can relax, enjoy bonding together as a family and as a fellow service member, and where they can find their “new normal” on their own terms.”

TRAVIS MILLS

Architect of Change

Every week in Maria’s newsletter publication The Sunday Paper, we honor individuals who are using their voices, their hearts and their minds to Move Humanity Forward.

This week, we honor Travis Mills as our Architect of Change of the Week. Travis is a quadruple amputee vet who hasn’t let life’s setbacks slow him down. Despite losing all four limbs in an IED explosion in Afghanistan, Travis returned to the U.S. determined to keep fighting for his country, and to continue serving his fellow service members who were doing the same.

On June 25, Travis and the veterans’ organization he founded, the Travis Mills Foundation, celebrated the grand opening of the Maine Chance Lodge & Retreat: a vacation property that Travis revitalized with the intention of offering free vacations to other wounded veterans and their families.

The retreat sits on 1,200 acres of land and features 16 rooms, a theater, backyard patio, state of the art living areas, and more. It was funded through donations: Travis and his foundation managed to raise $2.75 million to restore and run the historic 11,000 square foot house.

We honor Travis for his incredible contribution to this country and recently caught up with him to learn more.

1) Tell us a little bit about your story as a veteran and how it’s led you to where you are today.

I grew up in a little town called Vassar in Michigan as one of three kids. I was an athlete all throughout high school, and I joined the Army after my first semester in college. I loved being in the military, and I wanted to make it a career. But on April 10th, 2012, I was on my third deployment in Afghanistan, and during a routine patrol, I set my truck down on an IED (improvised explosives device). The explosion left me a quadruple amputee – one of only five to have survived the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During my recovery, I became known as the Mayor of Building 62, and I would walk around talking to other injured veterans about what their recovery would be like. I think that is very similar to what I do now as a leader at the Travis Mills Foundation. I love being a resource and a mentor to others to help them know that they don’t have to live life on the sidelines.

2) What inspired you to specifically start a vacation retreat for vets? What’s your goal with the Veterans Retreat and what has the response been like so far?

My family was a big part of my recovery. If my wife and my daughter (who is now 6) hadn’t been there for me during my recovery, I don’t think I would be the same person. I went downhill mountain biking in Colorado, and it was an amazing experience. I knew that getting back into being an active member of my family meant a lot to me, and I wanted to be able to help other families have that same experience.

Our goal is to provide our veterans with an incredible place where they can relax, enjoy bonding together as a family and as a fellow service member, and where they can find their “new normal” on their own terms. The response has been amazing. Our donations and support comes from all 50 states – and even internationally. Every penny counts.

3) How does a family apply to vacation at the retreat?

Our first 56 families have been hand-selected, but going forward it will be non-profit partners and referrals.

4) Your goal with the Veterans Retreat is to bring unconditional love and support to your guests. Do you have any suggestion for how we can all provide that level of care and appreciation to our nation’s veterans and their families?

One big thing is just to get involved in supporting veterans. There are so many great non-profits or veterans organizations who give back to veterans and their families. There are volunteer opportunities at the local VA clinics, national organizations like ours, and grass roots organizations in every city and state across the country.

5) Your motto is “never give up. never quit.” What do those words mean to you? What advice do you have for others who may want to live by that motto?

“Never give up, never” quit really embraces the idea that my injuries might have physically changed who I am, but they didn’t change my attitude. I believe that maybe I can’t go back and change the past and change what happened, but I can push forward, and I can keep going. Some of my fellow service members didn’t make it home, and it would be unfair to their lives and legacy if I didn’t push forward.

I always tell people that my problems are no bigger or worse than anybody else’s. If my story can be of support or motivation, then I’m all for it. We all have things that we go through, and you can always change your attitude to find the positivity somewhere.

Photo: Travis stands in front of the retreat with his wife, Kelsey, and daughter, Chloe. Credit Erin Little Photography.

For more on Travis Mills and the Travis Mills Foundation, visit travismills.org. You can also find Travis on social media @ssgtravismills.

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