TD salutes the dedication and bravery of all military personnel and their families this National Veterans and Military Families Month. We have a growing community of veterans who bring a unique perspective to our business and a passion for going above and beyond. The bank's mission is to build upon our commitment by creating a community where all active duty, reserve, former military, services, and family members can share their experiences, grow their careers, and raise awareness of veteran matters to our colleagues, customers, and communities.
We are honored to share the story of how one veteran-owned business and TD Bank small business customer, the Travis Mills Foundation, is making a difference in the lives of veterans and their families.
United States Army Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Travis Mills is proud to be many things, a decorated veteran, successful entrepreneur, dedicated husband and father, but he will make it clear to anyone who talks to him, he is anything but a wounded warrior.
While serving on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan in April 2012, Travis was critically injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated during a routine patrol. The explosion resulted in Travis losing portions of all four of his limbs; he is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive.
The road to recovery was a long one for Travis and his family, spending 19 months at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. There were endless obstacles for Travis to overcome, but he persevered through all of them, thanks in most part to his family, and his mantra, "Never Give Up. Never Quit."
During his time at Walter Reed, however, there was one thing that bothered Travis. "When people referred to me as a 'wounded warrior' they would do so with pity in their eyes, feeling sorry for me," Travis said. "I was anything but wounded. My wounds had healed, the stitches were gone, scars had formed, if anything I was recalibrated."
An Idea is Born
After getting an opportunity to attend an adaptive sports camp in Colorado, Travis realized there was a need for a place where a recalibrated veteran like himself could relax, reconnect, and find strength, all while having the opportunity to do so with their family. It was from that very idea that the Travis Mills Foundation was born.
Travis, along with his wife Kelsey, established the Travis Mills Foundation in 2013, a nonprofit organization formed to benefit and assist post-9/11 veterans who have been injured in active duty or as a result of their service to our nation. The veteran and their family receive an all-inclusive, all-expenses-paid, barrier-free experience in Maine where they participate in adaptive activities, bond with other veteran families, and enjoy much needed rest and relaxation in Maine's great outdoors.
"I was able to learn to do amazing things with my injuries, and I was able to do that with my wife. I saw there was a real opportunity to heal others in similar positions," Travis stated. "We started by piggy-backing with existing camps in Maine as a proof of concept. Thanks to people who really believed in what we were doing, we were eventually able to take out a loan to purchase our own location."
What started as a proof of concept by hosting veterans for a week at an already existing camp in Maine, has now turned into their own, dedicated retreat in Rome, Maine serving post-9/11 veterans year-round. In 2023 they hosted veterans 37 weeks of the year, with plans to expand to 40 in 2024.
The Value of a Strong Partnership
When it comes to creating and expanding their organization, Travis knows it starts with strong partnerships. "Having partners you can trust, and faith that they will do the right thing is important," Travis explained. "We have a lot of partners, whether it is our donors, employees, volunteers, and so many others. We have to be good stewards of our funds, so we can look a donor in the eye tell them we've been smart with their hard-earned money and keep that partnership strong."
Heather Hemphill, Executive Director of the Foundation, stressed the importance of having a strong banking partnership. "You can learn something from everyone. Being able to have a team of experts to lean on, and bounce ideas off of is so valuable," she acknowledged. "Having those people around and available, like our team at TD Bank, makes us much more successful in the long run."
She went on to state, "How do we make sure this Foundation has the financial capacity to continue serving veterans for years to come? I want to make sure that the Travis Mills Foundation has plenty of money in the bank to continue on, and make that not just a dream, but an achievable goal."
The Foundation has had the opportunity to do that, in part, thanks to conversations with their TD Bank Relationship Manager, Scott Masterson. "It has been an honor getting to work with the Travis Mills Foundation. I have the utmost respect for their mission and the work they do to better the lives of our nation's heroes."
Scott went on to state, "We have ensured the Foundation has access to all that TD Bank has to offer, including our strong Retail network, the experience and trust of our Commercial Bank, and the advice and guidance from our wealth partners. This approach will prove invaluable as the organization looks to move forward far into the future."
Looking to the Future
While the pandemic was a very difficult time for the organization, thanks to their talented staff they were able to transition to virtual program offerings, something that is still proving to be a very popular opportunity long after the end of the pandemic. It's that staff that has the future looking bright for this organization. "We used to run off of goodwill, but now we have the right people in place as we look ahead to the future," said Travis.
Heather also added, "We want to ensure we use our facility to its maximum potential and continue to meet our growing demand. It's all donor money and we want to be sure we spend it wisely as we plan for what's to come."
"We are going to make sure we are really good at what we do," Travis said with his trademark infectious smile, "there are a lot of exciting things in store!"
You can learn more about United States Army Staff Sergeant (Ret.) Travis Mills by reading his New York Times Bestseller, Tough As They Come. His second book, Bounce Back: 12 Warrior Principles to Reclaim and Recalibrate Your Life, which provides twelve principles to heal after trauma and overcome adversity, releases on November 7.