At the Travis Mills Foundation, a lot of what we do would not be possible without our team of volunteers.
Miranda Benefield has been a volunteer with TMF since summer 2018. After going through an unexpected and life changing event, she immersed her into a newfound passion – volunteering.
“I suddenly found myself going through a divorce, which is something I never anticipated – but I don’t think you ever anticipate things like that. I worked the merchandise table at an open house. Then I just threw myself into it. I started signing up for all kinds of things,” Miranda said.
A Bangor, Maine, resident, Miranda had military connections before joining the TMF family. Miranda’s son-in-law currently serves in the U.S. Navy and her son also served for approximately eight years in the Navy. Both her grandfather and two of her great uncles served in World War II in the Royal Air Force; one of her great-uncles was also honorably awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in North Africa.
“[Volunteering with TMF] gave me the opportunity to give back to a population what was very close to my heart,” she said. “My older son who served on the USS Normandy did eventually leave the Navy with a medical discharge.”
Miranda sees him struggle with post-traumatic stress and she was inspired to find a way to greater serve the population that meant so much to her.
“It’s a place that gave me the opportunity to do something outside of myself when my life was in this period that I could have been bitter, or I could’ve gotten better,” Miranda said. “So, I chose the latter and the Foundation and the Retreat gave me the opportunity to throw myself into something I had never really done before.”
After working the merchandise table for various TMF events, Miranda signed up to be a volunteer driver – taking participants to and from the airport when visiting the Retreat.
“If it’s their first time [to the Retreat], aside from talking to Kelly [Roseberry, Vice President of Programming] and finding information about what’s there and what kinds of things you can do, I’ve always viewed myself as the first one you’re seeing face to face. So, I’m kind of the first representative of the Foundation and what it stands for and what it does.”
Many times, families come to the Retreat not knowing what to expect. Miranda says that TMF is different than any other Retreat offered to recalibrated veterans and their families. It is relaxing, yet adventurous.
“Anything I can do to help be that first positive experience, so that when they get there, they can be more at ease and spill out of the van to the waterfront, or going to climb on the playground, or just [sitting] and [breathing] the fresh Maine air. Sometimes, it’s just about being there, not doing any one thing in particular, just being.”
In fall 2019, Miranda, 47 at the time, was diagnosed with stage two colon cancer. During that time, she underwent chemotherapy and radiation. She continued to volunteer with TMF as much as she could.
“I was still able to be involved in stuff, but on a very limited basis,” Miranda said.
During a volunteer appreciation event in fall 2020, Miranda remembers introducing herself to other volunteers, leaving out that she was a cancer survivor; SSG(Ret.) Travis Mills was standing next to her and excitedly shared with everyone that she had beat the illness.
“I’m standing next to someone who experiences one of the most traumatic things you could ever experience in life,” Miranda said. “I was not going to complain about the things that I am having to go through because Travis does incredible things every day.”
“It’s opened my eyes to a lot of issues that I may have heard about – whether that be the news or social media, but it gave me the opportunity to match a face to issues that were being discussed in the news.”
Miranda had some rough trials that she faced, but by volunteering at TMF, she has been able to give back and help to heal her emotional wounds.
“It’s a place that gave me a landing pad and it is an organization that gave me an opportunity to get out of my own head when I needed it.”
Read about TMF Volunteers, the Allan Family >>>