2017 – Inaugural Veteran Families
“Dear Travis Mills Foundation,
We can’t say thank you enough for hosting us on your inaugural year (week 5)! I speak for the entire Hayes family, all six of us when I say “That it was the best, most relaxing family trip we have ever had together”. Everything from the amazing volunteers/staff to the excellent food that never ended to the action-packed but overwhelmingly laid back atmosphere. It was perfect!!
It is very challenging for myself or other organizations to plan a trip that may focus on just one or two of the things we did last week. Along with the fact that most non-profits are trying to get as many veterans as possible, or the area/schedule isn’t conducive to having a big family or a baby, someone is usually left out. You not only allowed all of my family to attend but catered to all of us. Thinking of those little details like child care, a date night, and having a kid zone (with theater), helped my entire family relax and enjoy our time together.
Not once were we “encouraged” to attend an event (even though we did them all). It is extremely difficult to do things like paddle boarding or kayaking with my daughters like I did before losing both my legs. My family loves the water and I have felt guilty over the past seven years for not being able to do the things we did last week with them before we came. I was so proud watching all of my children learn new things last week that I wished I could teach them myself safely.
Your retreat week felt more like another home than a trip or vacation. We felt safe enough to let our kids go with the staff/volunteers or head to an event without us and I am extremely protective with three girls and a baby.
Getting a chance to hang out with other disabled veteran families was a huge plus too. Many of the faces we saw we hadn’t seen since we were at Walter Reed. Being able to catch up and relax together was very therapeutic and I think is very important for service members with Post Traumatic Stress/Traumatic Brain Injury.
We are very fortunate to have been able to attend and only hope the TMF grows and more families can experience what we did.
Thank you doesn’t seem like enough, but “THANK YOU, so much” from the Hayes family.
— Master Sergeant, USMC (ret.) John Hayes, wife Janel, and family
“The Smith family had a wonderful time at the Travis Mills Foundation Family Retreat. We were nervous about flying and vacationing for the first time with our infant, but the team at TMF took care of every worry we had. We were flown in a private plane where my husband did not have to endure an invasive pat down and he did not have to take his legs off to sit comfortably on the plane. When we arrived in Maine a friendly volunteer greeted us and loaded our luggage.
Our first time seeing the TMF retreat we were awestruck with just how beautiful it was. The beauty of estate on the outside was matched by the décor on the inside. As beautiful as the retreat was even more exciting for us was the handicap accessibility of the entire camp. Andrew was able to maneuver around the entire camp with ease and play with our son without worrying about tripping.
The friendly staff attended to every need that we could possibly have. The food was plentiful and delicious. Every meal really hammered in the impression that we were at a five-star resort.
The preparation put into our week by the TMF staff was evident. At no point were we left without plenty of options for entertainment or relaxation.
A highlight of the week for us was when two massage therapists came to our handicap accessible room. They performed an hour-long couples massage in the privacy of our room. It was great for Andrew because he was able to take his legs off right there and feel completely relaxed. For me, I was able to fully relax and unwind knowing that Andrew was comfortable.
It was wonderful seeing Andrew be able to take our son on his first kayak ride. The TMF staff and volunteers were ever present to assist in getting Andrew and Henson in a kayak and ensuring safety. Thankfully a TMF volunteer took plenty of photos of this moment so I was able to be in the moment and just enjoy.
The Smith family felt honored to attend the TMF retreat. We were blessed to spend time with great friends and to be able to relax as a family. We cannot thank the donors, volunteers, and staff enough for the amazing week. It was sad leaving, but we are already looking forward to next year!” — Tori Smith, wife of US Army Sgt Andrew Smith
“Thank you so much for the wonderful opportunity to experience such a Beautiful Retreat. Each staff/volunteer member showed true professionalism from day one. The location of the house is equally impressive. Also, the time on the lake was awesome, as well as the other schedule events.
I hope much more get the chance to visit this pristine Wounded Warrior Retreat!”
— US Army SFC Marc Owens and wife Jenny
“My wife and I attended Week 3 of the Travis Mills Foundation Retreat and had a wonderful time. The staff and attendees that we met while at the retreat were very warm and welcoming. Travis treated each of us as though we were old friends and made everyone feel at home. The grounds were beautiful and well laid out for those with prosthetics as well as wheelchairs. I participated in a few new activities that I have not tried since my injury and I enjoyed each of those activities. I got to watch and hear other attendees try things that they had never tried before and make plans to pick it up as a hobby. I think the biggest thing that we took away from the retreat is that my wife had the opportunity to speak to and learn from other spouses of injured veterans, as we were not together during my time at Walter Reed. She felt like she had the opportunity to ask questions and get answers from others that have gone through the same experiences. Both of us thoroughly enjoyed our stay and are looking forward to seeing the impact that the Travis Mills Foundation has on others in the future.”
— USMC Sgt. Paul Shuper and wife, Courtney Shupert
My name is LCpl Kendall Bane (USMC RET) and my wife and I attended the Travis Mills Foundation’s beautiful retreat with the second group of veterans and spouses in mid-July of 2017. In 2012, I was wounded in Afghanistan by enemy gunfire and, as a result of those injuries I later lost my left leg below the knee. My wife and I currently live in Alabama and we have attended a few similar retreats or trips put on by other organizations but they all pale in comparison. I cannot speak highly enough of the 4 days we spent in Maine with the Travis Mills Foundation. The great people at TMF simply nailed every aspect of what a veteran’s retreat should be. The activities were amazing and my wife and I took part in paddle boarding, kayaking, tubing, and archery. The pace of the schedule was perfect; it allowed for plenty of down time while still giving us the opportunity to fill our day with whatever we wanted to. The meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner were absolutely fantastic every single day, especially the lobster bake and the steak night. The grounds were stunningly gorgeous and they loaned each family golf carts to easily get around in and we were both treated to wonderful massages by professional massage therapists.
But what meant the most to me are the hours our group spent around the fire pits each night swapping stories, sharing experience and knowledge, or even just lending an understanding ear. Getting to know others who are in a very similar position gives you more insight in how to handle your own challenges. This retreat provides an extremely great opportunity to connect; to connect with ourselves, our spouses, our children, and other veterans. These connections are what get me through rough days.
Everything about the retreat provides the right ambiance and setting for these lifetime connections to be made. Our time in Maine with the TMF allowed us to spend a few days enjoying that camaraderie and brotherhood that exists in the military. After you retire or separate, those moments can be few and far between and for me personally getting to experience some of that again, even if only for a few days, is something that is irreplaceable. I can’t thank you guys enough for the incredible experience you gave us.
— USMC (Ret.) LCpl Kendall Bane
I don’t know how Holly and I got lucky enough to join you guys, but we are extremely grateful for the opportunity.
You have organized and performed an outstanding program there at the retreat. I, personally, feel that the organized yet, not forced attendance of the events allows for more connections and camaraderie to be formed. It was nice to have the events set up yet no pressure to attend if I was in the middle of a great conversation with another vet. Which in turn is very therapeutic. The bonfires at night proved to be very great throughout my stay. The group of guys I was with was spectacular and were very easy to talk to and connect with making the retreat very rewarding.
I know that this retreat would not happen without the time and efforts put forth by the volunteers. Everything from driving families to and from the airport, to cleaning rooms, and shucking lobsters. Without out the volunteers, the great times had would not be without them. I can’t thank them enough for what they do. Please, pass that along.
The organizations that provided the multitude of events was outstanding. And the fact that the organizations are primarily veteran run/operated/ and designed to support is fantastic. It strengthens and supports the “vets helping vets” mantra.
I cannot thank you all enough for the opportunity to be there. It is an amazing organization and event. Keep up the hard work! You are making differences and changing lives!
— Kiel Vickers
“My husband, Taylor Morris, lost a portion of all 4 limbs while deployed in Afghanistan in 2012. We spent 2 years living at a hospital undergoing countless surgeries, physical therapy, occupational therapy, prosthetic fittings and appointments and recovering from his devastating injuries. Our main focused our time at the hospital was regaining the independence he lost when he lost his limbs but we did not realize we also gained what we refer to as our “Walter Reed Family”. Leaving the hospital was bitter-sweet. Leaving meant that we were better, stronger and even more determined not to let the blast and injuries define or determine our future. We returned home to Cedar Falls, Iowa, where Taylor is currently finishing his degree at our local University, with the thought to go back from his MBA, and has started a successful non-profit. I have returned to my career as a Realtor. We have also started construction on our forever home. Life is good! The only thing that is missing is our Walter Reed Family.
We became extremely close with five other families that became our support group. We share a bond that can never be reciprocated or broken. We were there for one another to get through, what I hope to be, the hardest times of our lives. We still talk to one another on a daily basis and are there for each other for anything and everything. To have a retreat that allows us to reconnect with one another is invaluable. As good as we are with staying in touch over text, phone calls and FaceTime, nothing beats a week devoted to relaxing, catching up and, of course, lots of hugs, kisses and laughing! All of the activities, meals and the overall space was absolutely perfect!
I know I can speak for everyone when I say how much we appreciated it all and feel extremely blessed with all the hard work that was put into this beautiful retreat!”
— Danielle Morris, wife of US Navy EOD Tech Taylor Morris
From the initial beginnings of this wonderful retreat, we were greeted by warm smiles from the volunteers and staff as well as stories of the location and surrounding areas and how the retreat came to exist. We were made to feel as if this was our own personal retreat. Having spent the last 4 months at Walter Reed, after Daniel had a revision done on his original amputation received in combat, we were in desperate need of a reprieve from the concrete jungle and smells of the hospital.
We needed a break. We didn’t want a schedule. We wanted to know we were in a location that was accessible for an amputee. This provided everything and more. We had wide open spaces full of beautiful views. We were able to do anything we needed to do as a couple to unwind, including water sports, or just a relaxing golf cart cruise to go enjoy a cigar while watching fireflies at sunset. We were amongst like-minded, as well as like spirited people, who have become friends. Maine is such a gorgeous location and this retreat is top notch as to what it provides our wounded soldiers. We feel blessed to have been part of the original groups to have visited this place and can’t imagine there is another place like it out there. Thank you again for renewing our spirits and giving us the opportunity to reconnect as a couple.
— Kristen and Daniel Metzdorf