WATERVILLE — Retired Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee who oversees a central Maine retreat for injured veterans, said Tuesday he hopes in upcoming years to expand the free program with more facilities and availability for service members and their families.

That could include opportunities next year for veterans of the Vietnam War, he said.

Mills, 30, of Manchester, made the comments about the next “umbrella project” during an evening talk with Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz, as part of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal’s “Community Voices” speaker series held at Colby College.

Mills and a board manage the Travis Mills Foundation, a nonprofit that oversees the lakeside retreat in Rome that held a grand opening this past summer and hosted more than 50 veterans. The event Tuesday night drew a crowd of about 180, with about $1,800 in ticket sales all donated to the foundation.

“My vision for the foundation would be five to 10 years, maybe we open another one or two facilities, but that’s possibly around the nation where families can’t fly with that many kids,” Mills said. “… Next fall I’m hoping to unveil another branch of the foundation where we bring up Vietnam vets. Because, you know what, ladies and gentlemen? … The first thing I tell people is I didn’t serve any more than anyone else. I make fun of the other branches, joking around, but we put a right hand up in the air and took the oath. So thank you for your service, if you’re a Vietnam vet. Thank you for your service and welcome home.”

Mills said he hoped the foundation by this time next year would host Vietnam veterans and a half-dozen or more of their “buddies” to come out to the retreat for “a chance to connect and regroup.”

“We have a beautiful facility now,” Mills said.

The retreat is run by some paid staffs, but largely by volunteers, and aims to provide wounded veterans with a relaxing place to stay free for a week and in the company of veterans going through similar recoveries. About 90 percent of the veterans who attended the retreat this summer were wounded by improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, Mills said Tuesday.

Mills founded his organization in 2013 and has made a career in motivational speaking. To open the retreat, his foundation raised $2.5 million – both cash and in-kind gifts – in 2015 and 2016.

Comments are no longer available on this story