Travis Mills Foundation Ambassador, Petty Officer 3 (Ret.) Kristin Hicks served as a Musician in the U.S. Navy for a total of three years between December 2011 and December 2014.
During her time in the service, she earned the Good Conduct Medal, Pistol Marksmanship Medal, National Defense Service Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Kristin aspired to be a professional musician – attending Juilliard and New York University, earning a Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance. She came across an opportunity to audition for a military band, realizing that in the civilian world, being a musician can be difficult and include very few benefits. Her grandfather’s service in the U.S. Marine Corps ultimately influenced her choice of branch.
Although both the Navy and the Marine Corps are regarded as separate branches of the military, the Marine Corps is technically a part of the U.S. Navy ever since Congress placed the Marines under the Navy in 1834.
“I knew the branches were related, so that’s why I chose the Navy over the other branches,” Kristen said.
During her service, Kristen experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST) in 2012 and 2013 while stationed in the United States, leading to both physical and emotional trauma. She has faced Post-Traumatic Stress, depression, anxiety, damage to her left foot, a broken right knee, inability to have children, arm injuries, a broken jaw, and loss of consciousness from a concussion resulting in traumatic brain injury.
“I was violently sexually assaulted multiple times while on Active Duty,” Kristen said. “My assailants not only injured my mental health but also left me with numerous physical injuries that I have been trying to recover from.”
To help repair her injuries, Kristen has had over 49 surgeries, and at the time of this article, she has more currently scheduled.
“I have struggled to get back into a normal life,” Kristen said. “I rely on my service dog and medications to help me live a somewhat normal life. I had to leave my job [with Disney] that I held prior to Active Duty.”
Many days, Kristen experiences a struggle to get out of the house.
Sometimes when servicemembers come home from military duty, they have experiences that can change them. Families and friends often struggle to understand what the veteran is going through and how to approach interactions. Due to Kristen’s experience, she struggled immensely when coming home.
“They had no idea,” Kristen said. “I was a stranger to them when I came home.”
For Kristen, she needed support from her family and friends. After she disclosed the traumas she had been through, she was able to connect with her family and friends on a deeper level to get the support she needed.
“They tried to support me however they could. Whether that was helping me go grocery shopping or even just sitting and listening while I cried during a flashback or panic attack.”
TRAVIS MILLS FOUNDATION
Kristen first heard about the Travis Mills Foundation through a friend at the Wounded Warrior Project, suggesting that it could be helpful not only for her but also and her family in support of her recovery process.
In February 2023, Kristen attended the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine with her mom and sister.
“We enjoyed being outside during the snowfall, as we’re from Florida and don’t see snow often,” Kristen said.
While at the Retreat, Kristen and her family were also able to take part in other activities such as dog sledding, leather making, ice fishing, yoga, massage and painting.
Since participants come from throughout the country to visit in the Retreat, many get to have experiences that are new to them.
“It was fun being able to do them in a way that accommodated me and my injuries,” Kristen said. “I had a blast!”
She also tried yoga for the first time.
“That was also my first time participating in yoga since becoming a recalibrated veteran, and I was pleasantly surprised. I thought I would be frustrated with my limitations, but I was able to do more than I thought, and I had a great time doing it.”
The Travis Mills Foundation ensures that all activities are adapted to what the veterans and their families need. Many veterans are injured and have difficulty adapting activities to fit their injuries. While at the Retreat, participants often try activities they otherwise wouldn’t have tried.
“[The Retreat was] the best time of my life, and my family’s life, since becoming a recalibrated veteran. I have made some lifelong friendships from the program, which I will forever cherish. I am incredibly grateful to the Travis Mills Foundation for the experience and opportunity.”
The Travis Mills Foundation is grateful for Kristen’s service and sacrifices to the United States.
ABOUT THE TRAVIS MILLS FOUNDATION
The Travis Mills Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports post-9/11 veterans who experienced life-changing injuries while in service to our country. The Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat offers our nation’s recalibrated veterans and their families a week-long, barrier-free, all-expenses-paid experience at its world-class retreat in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine. It offers various programs that help these brave men and women overcome physical and emotional obstacles, strengthen their families, and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation. The Foundation also offers Warrior PATHH (Progressive & Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) for combat veterans and first responders, the nation’s first-of-its-kind program designed to cultivate and facilitate post-traumatic growth. Learn more >>>