VETERANS RIDE AGAIN
Travis Mills is a retired United States Army Staff Sergeant of the 82nd Airborne, and on April 10, 2012, he was critically injured on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan by an IED (improvised explosive device) while on patrol, losing portions of both arms and both legs. He is one of only five quadruple amputees from the wars in the Middle East to survive his injuries.
He received great care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center near Washington D.C. over the course of a 19-month stay. He now has prosthetics on all four limbs.
“The e-bikes brought the joy of riding a bike back!”
In 2013 Travis and his wife Kelsey founded the nonprofit Travis Mills Foundation, 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 families receive an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid, barrier-free vacation to Maine where they participate in adaptive activities, bond with other veteran families, and enjoy much-needed rest and relaxation in Maine’s great outdoors.
The site of the retreat is the former estate of Elizabeth Arden that the foundation purchased in 2015. They renovated the buildings and grounds and held the grand opening in 2017. In 2018 they offered 16 weeks of programming, and in 2020 they’ll host 24 weeks.
The retreat, located in Maine, offers “rest and relaxation for the re-calibrated.” The recreation they offer is extensive, including yoga, archery, kayaking, canoeing, boating, fishing, pottery, painting, cooking, martial arts, horseback riding, a team-building ropes course and cycling. All are offered for adaptive and traditional needs.
For the cycling part, they’ve had regular bikes to ride, but some of the vets found them hard to ride.
ENTER THE E-BIKE
Dave Richard is a demo driver for Specialized who has worked with their e-bikes for the past few years. One of his friends has been volunteering at the Travis Mills Foundation, and a conversation started around if the wounded veterans might be able to ride more with assistance. Dave said, “Only one way to find out. Let’s bring some up there!”
In the fall of 2018 Dave took one of the guys who works for the foundation who has a prosthetic leg for a ride, as well as some of the caregivers there. It was a huge hit. The caregivers, many of whom were older women, said their memories of riding a bike was having to ride up a hill. Or worse, having to get off the bike and push their bike up a hill. Without having to get off and push, they said the e-bikes brought the joy of riding a bike back.
The foundation now has a fleet of 10 e-bikes. When visitors come in on Sunday and stay for a week, they usually go out for rides two to three times. The setting is a beautiful part of Maine, with hills and lake views. The route takes them immediately up a 7-percent-grade hill that’s about half a mile long. At first, some look at the climb with dread, but that quickly vanishes when the pedal assist kicks in. Then the grins spread across their faces. E-bikes are also the great equalizer, so veterans of differing abilities and fitness levels can all stay together easily.
One great example of someone getting involved and getting back into riding thanks to e-bikes is Chris Roseberry (1SG ret.). He lost a foot early in his career in the military and went back into the battle with a prosthetic to serve 14 more years. Upon retiring from the military, Chris and his wife Kelly (who met Travis while working at Walter Reed) moved to Maine to work alongside Travis and the foundation to realize their goals. A pivotal member of the Travis Mills Foundation, Chris oversees the day-to-day maintenance of the facility. Chris’ life has been one of service to his country and to his fellow warriors.
Chris has become an integral part of an organization called Dogs for Our Brave (www.dogsforourbrave.com), an organization designed to provide service dogs to veterans at no cost. Having been on the receiving end of his own service dog, Gabby, Chris found it easy to get on board with their mission and has become a primary spokesperson for the organization.
With his eponymous foundation now up and running, Travis is expanding his efforts and is now also a professional speaker, motivating audiences for companies like USAA, Allstate, Lockheed Martin, Mitsubishi and more. You can follow Travis Mills on Instagram at @ssgtravismills, and his website is www.travismills.org.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS TO GET
ELECTRIC BIKE ACTION
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