TMF Ambassador Spotlight: SFC (Ret.) Aaron Cornelius

Travis Mills Foundation Ambassador SFC (Ret.) Aaron Cornelius served as an Infantry Soldier with 11B in the U.S. Army for 18 years. Aaron was inspired to join the Army following in the footsteps of his grandfathers who served in the U.S. Army during WWII and to provide a better life for his family.

During his time in the service, Aaron was awarded a Purple Heart, three Bronze Stars, two Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, a Humanitarian Service Medal, a Meritorious Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Expert Infantryman Badge, and the Combat Infantryman Badge, and six Good Conduct Medals.

Learn more about the U.S. Army


In 2008 while on his third tour in Iraq, Aaron was serving as a Platoon Sergeant.

“After rescuing an armor platoon from enemy combatants, [I] went to retrieve soldiers on security and a buried IED exploded underneath me,” Aaron said.

From the blast, Aaron experienced a total loss of vision, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, collapsed arteries in his neck, and the removal of portions of his skull.

After spending three days at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, an American hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, Aaron returned to the U.S. and had a brain aneurysm.

Once returning home, Aaron was grateful that his family was “patient” with him during an incredibly difficult recovery journey.
Four years after Aaron’s injury, his wife passed away. While still growing up herself, his youngest daughter became his caretaker – helping him cook and pay bills, among other tasks.

“[My family provided] lots of emotional support and care,” Aaron said.

Read more about Aaron’s story


Aaron first attended the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat in winter 2023 with a friend who is also a U.S. Army veteran.

“Upon arrival, I found that all the staff members of the Foundation were loving, caring and really involved,” Aaron said.

While at the Retreat, he especially enjoyed dog sledding and a scavenger hunt.

“It was fun to bounce around and do all the different things.”

Aaron heard about the Travis Mills Foundation through Homes for Heroes LINK and was encouraged to apply to take part in the incredible experience.

“I enjoyed meeting other soldiers and family members with similar or worse situations,” he said.

The connection formed between veterans and their families during the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat is a lifelong bond.

While at the Retreat, Aaron was also able to use the Health and Wellness Center’s gym and pool on property along with learning to make leather keychains taught by a fellow veteran.

Despite Aaron’s total loss of vision, he was able to participate in all activities just as any other participants that pass through the doors of the Retreat. Staff take every step possible to adapt activities, fitting the individual needs of veterans and their families.

“All of the activities and organized events were a wonderful way to unwind and recharge my batteries.”

The Travis Mills Foundation is grateful for Aaron’s service and sacrifices to the United States.


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 >>>