You would think that serving three tours of combat duty in the United States Army and losing all four limbs to an IED explosion in Afghanistan would mean that retired Staff Sergeant, Travis Mills has given enough — but he’s just getting started. The decorated quadruple amputee veteran has just opened a 1,000 acre retreat in Maine where wounded veterans and their families can stay for free while they relax, recover, and find some healing in recreational activities.
The Travis Mills Foundation held a grand opening ceremony for the Maine Chance Lodge & Retreat, located in Rome, Maine, and is welcoming the first group of wounded veterans and their families in July. The veterans can stay for a week free of charge as they network with other veterans who are going through the same journey back home and enjoy the amenities of the lodge and the recreational activities on the massive retreat grounds.
“These people that are going to be coming to visit here have sacrificed so much, they have given so much for their country: paralyzation or amputation. On top of that, I want people to understand that there does need to be a network built where people come in and they are able to feel comfortable learning new things adaptively, not live life on the sidelines,” said Travis Mills at the grand opening ceremony.
The retreat was originally built as a luxury spa in 1929 by cosmetics pioneer, Elizabeth Arden, with famous guests like First Lady, Mamie Eisenhower and actress, Ava Gardner. After $2.5 million in restoration work, provided through fundraising and donations, the retreat is now open again and ready to take in some even more amazing guests — U.S. veterans injured during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Maine Chance Lodge & Retreat is a state-of-the-art facility, built and renovated specifically for wounded veterans to be fully handicapped accessible. The lodge itself has eight separate rooms or suites for families to stay in, along with a movie theater and a children’s play area. Outdoors, on more than 1,000 acres of beautiful property, is a lake where visitors can go swimming, kayaking, and tubing, along with hiking, bicycling, and more. Mills hopes to show other veterans who suffered injuries and had amputations that they can do all of these things, as well.
Primarily, the retreat is designed to help veterans recover from their injuries. That works in three ways. First, the veteran gets a free vacation and some well-deserved relaxation with his or her family; and being with family is a support that Mills found to be fundamental when he was recovering from his own injuries. Second, veterans will get the chance to do some things — like kayaking or bicycling — which they may not have thought possible after their injuries and will hopefully continue to enjoy long after their stay. Third, the veterans staying at the lodge will have the chance to network with one another and find some extra healing together, just as they fought together in the Armed Forces.
There are 56 veterans scheduled to stay at the retreat this first summer, with plans to expand programs into winter and extend the retreat to Vietnam veterans in the future. One of the first guests staying at the Maine Chance Lodge & Retreat will be retired Army Master Sergeant, Chris Roseberry. Roseberry had already served in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq when he was struck by a car in 2005 while riding his motorcycle. He spent two years in the hospital and had the lower half of his right leg amputated. With a prosthetic leg, he then deployed again in 2009 to Afghanistan. There, his leg was injured again, more of it was amputated, and he retired in 2015. His fiancee, Kelly McGaughey, and their children will be joining him during his weeklong stay. McGaughey, a physical therapist, will then stay on as manager of the retreat.
“Whether it’s a quadruple amputee or single amputee we are all the same,” said Roseberry. “It’s easy for us to relate; we don’t have to hide anything because we’re all in the same spot. So I think that coming here that will help some people out tremendously.”
Travis Mills, originally from Michigan, was a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army, serving with the 82nd Airborne on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was critically wounded by an IED. That explosion took part of both his legs and arms, making him one of only five quadruple amputees to survive their injuries in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2013, he formed the Travis Mills Foundation, which “supports 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.”Whizzco