OH, WHAT A DAY!!!!!!
I just knew when I woke up on Sunday that it was going to be the perfect day, albeit emotional and I was sure, inspirational. You see this was going to be the day of the grand opening of the Travis Mills Foundation retreat in Rome, Maine. After all Travis and his family had been through these last 5 years, didn’t they deserve the PERFECT day?
It all started in April 12 and when Journalist Jenna Lee asked us to think back 5 years about what we were doing, what our lives were like and what we wanted in our life, Travis, his wife, Kelsey and little girl, Chloe were no different and had the same dreams all of us might have had. But all that changed that fateful April day when as Travis says, “I had a bad case of the Mondays”. An Army Staff Sergeant of the 82nd Airborne Travis was in Afghanistan and was the leader of his unit. They were “sweeping” for IED’s when Travis put his backpack down and an IED exploded disintegrating his right side-arm and leg were gone and the left side was in dangerous peril. Travis was alive but barely and by the time he was air lifted to a hospital they knew his left leg couldn’t be saved and three days later his left arm was amputated, making him one of 5 surviving quadruple amputees.
After three weeks when he finally got the courage to face his wife, he told her to take the baby, the house, the car and the bank account and leave him. But, you see ,Kelsey is not that kind of woman. Young and scared, she was 23; he was 24, she told Travis they were in this together. As she now says, ”I just don’t know how you even think about leaving someone you love and who is this badly hurt.”
Family support was what it was all about and what it’s still all about today for the Mills and Buck family. Craig Buck, Kelsey’s dad, left his job in Dallas and moved into Walter Reed with Kelsey and Chloe-into a small dorm type room where they would live for 19 months while Travis recovered. Craig took care of Chloe and Kelsey took care of Travis. Who does this? I guess we all would for our children.
Travis worked like a man possessed to recover-he wanted to get back home and be with his family in record time. But as you can imagine it takes a long time. The day he got on his feet with new prosthetics, Kelsey knew he would recover. “Getting him on his feet was the turning point in his recovery.” And when Walter Reed told him he would be able to feed himself, dress himself, drive and run he wanted to know more. You see Travis had been a very successful athlete in Vassar, MI where he went to high school and that competitive spirit took over-he wanted to show himself and others that he could do everything Walter Reed promised.
Travis became the Mayor of his hospital floor and the workout room. He used his uncanny sense of humor and unbelievable attitude to help others who had been injured deal with their loneliness, depression, and pain. He understood when everyone went home they would be isolated and away from the support system they had all come to count on at Walter Reed. A very real fear of going home gripped them and Travis began to envision a “camp/retreat” where recovering veterans could bring their families to fish, ride ATV’s, have movie nights with their wives, and where they would recover better and faster.
Enter Operation Hat Trick. On our annual trip to Walter Reed we met Travis. My daughter, who was on the trip where we were delivering OHT hats to patients, told me she met this amazing young man with a unique sense of humor. You see he made the wrist on his prosthetic arm fall off when she went to shake his hand and she thought she broke it. After an emotional moment, she realized he was kidding. “Gotcha” he said. Megg told me “Travis is going to have a camp in Maine for injured veterans and we have to go and help.” Thus started the partnership between OHT and Travis. OHT was one of the very first organizations to donate to Travis’ retreat vision .
Fast forward again to yesterday. Thanks to so many wonderful sponsors, partners and volunteers, Travis opened his retreat. Its mission is to support combat injured veterans and their families through long-term programs that help these heroic men and women overcome physical obstacles, strengthen their families and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation. (for more information, go to www.travismillsfoundation.org). This young man on a mission, his wife and daughter (and their baby boy due in August), their families and all those “pulling” for Travis Mills have done a wonderful thing for our veterans. There’s no one quite like Travis. He uses humor to diffuse any discomfort you may when talking to a quadruple amputee. He’s thankful and appreciative of all the partners like Operation Hat Trick for sharing his vision and making a commitment to those who fought for our freedom. How can you not?
I knew I would be proud, and yes emotional, beyond belief on Sunday. It was THE perfect day!!!! I’m so proud OHT has partnered with Travis. I knew the retreat would be wonderful but REALLY? It’s a 5 star retreat. Travis has huge plans for the future-a pool, a barn and a conference center in addition to finishing the lakeside facility where veterans will fish, swim, kayak and have barbecues. For Operation Hat Trick, it was the best of introductions, thanks Megg, and decision to support the Travis Mills Foundation Our commitment is unwavering and we hope to do even more to make Travis’ dream come true.
Find out more about Operation Hat Trick at www.operationattrick.org
Operation Hat Trick
Pictured: Brennen Thompson, Andy Thompson, Megg Thompson, Travis Mills and Dot Sheehan
The Founder’s Blog is a regular feature on the Operation Hat trick website. This blog will give you information and recount stories of our journey to help those in need. To read our most recent blog and find archived blog posts, please visit our “Founder’s Blog” page.