Update: Have you ever had a moment in your life when someone or something changed you forever? Yesterday, I had that moment. In a rustic dining hall packed with veterans, lobster, laughter and an whole lot of camaraderie, I met Travis Mills. His jovial spirit and engaging smile don’t serve to mask the tragedy he’s been through…those traits are who he is and who he has always been. Travis has a divine spark within him which manifests as a burning desire to support, encourage and lift others up especially during difficult times. This is his story of help and hope for fellow veterans and their families.
First (Lady) Encounter
I first became aware of the National Veterans Family Camp a few weeks ago when I had the remarkable opportunity to visit with the First Lady of Maine, Mrs. Ann LePage at our state’s capitol in Augusta. My mom was the mayor of our hometown for several terms so the idea of someone committing themselves to public service, especially at the local and state levels, has always inspired me. As I walked up to the front entrance of the Blaine House, in the shadow of the Capitol Building, I felt a sense of awe and reverence for those willing to serve. Mrs. LePage is a passionate supporter of our military service men & women as well as military families and veterans. Her commitment along with the vision and dedication of so many military, veterans and civilians has resulted in greater awareness of some remarkable individuals and organizations who support our nation’s finest. In this two part special, I will profile groups whose desire to serve is met with their dedication to make a difference in lives of our veterans and wounded warriors.
The Travis Mills Project
At 25 years old, most of us either will have or have had visions of accomplishing anything we set our minds to achieving with a world of unlimited opportunities in front of us. On his 25th birthday, however, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Travis Mills’ life was forever altered. As the fifth surviving quadruple amputee from Iraq & Afghanistan, the past 16 months have been a grueling journey back to health. [Watch the video trailer]
Remarkably, at a time when you would think he has more than earned the right to focus 100% on his recovery, Travis was thinking about other wounded veterans. Sharing his desire with Dean Lachance, Executive Director at Bread of Live Ministries, the two have worked together to achieve Travis’s vision of a recreation center for veterans and their families, “a place where they could all get back to nature and the activities that instill the confidence to keep moving forward.”
National Veterans Family Center
Thanks to a shared vision of Joel & Crista Lavenson to create a Veteran’s Family camp at their serene and breathtaking location in Belgrade, Maine, the National Veterans Recreation Center has become a reality. Here are some specifics:
- Who — veterans & their families.
- What - In Maine we call it going “up to camp” a tradition where families experience outdoor activities, campfires and wonderful memories of summers in Maine.
- Where — 1907 Camp Kennebec are classic summer camps with upgrades for full accessibility for those with disabilities.
- Why — The added fellowship of veterans and families coming together creates an even greater bond, a healing environment and lifelong friendships.
- How — You can nominate a veteran or make a donation in the name of a Veteran family member or friend. Mrs. LePage has also created a First Spouse Initiative to have every state in the U.S. establish a scholarship fund to send one disabled Veteran family from each state to the camp annually. Encourage your state to participate by setting aside or raising $3,000/yr for each state to sponsor one family.
- Wear - for a $30 donation you can get a Veteran Strong t-shirt and all proceeds go to building Travis’ Dream.
For more information and to support this great cause go to www.veteransfamilycamp.com
The next vision for camp is to create year-round opportunities for veterans and their families. The upgraded facility offers golf, tennis, swimming, water skiing, boating, a theater, lounges and 50’s cafe. It offers room & board for 200 and is a perfect location for corporate outings, weddings and group events. The more the camp is utilized the closer Travis will be to his goal for a self-sustaining retreat for veterans. To book an event please contact Joel & Crista at email@example.com or (800) Golf-Camp
August 25–31, 2013 was host to several heroic veterans and their families. I want to additionally honor the service and sacrifice of the other amazing veterans we met last night including Taylor Morris, Drew Mullee, Jeremy Gilley, Brendan Higgins and Eric Burkett. Several of these veterans are still in recovery at Walter Reed Medical Center so a trip to Maine is a welcome diversion for these amazing warriors and their equally courageous families. On behalf of a very grateful nation, I thank you all for your service and sacrifice.
Even as wars end and conflicts subside, the wounds both visible and hidden remain for our veterans and their families. As military families, we maintain a unique bond of brotherhood. No matter the political environment, social acceptance, or popularity, that connection remains. Resources like The Travis Mills Project — National Veterans Family Center, are a lifeline of hope and healing to our own.
“Be Bold and Mighty Forces Will Come to Your Aid.”
Copyright © 2013 by Christine A.Toriello, all rights reserved.