Craig Buck’s main role at the Travis Mills Foundation is Chief Strategy Officer, but he wears many hats when it comes to Founder SSG Travis Mills, including father-in-law and even best friend.
Craig grew up in Hallowell, Maine, just six miles from where the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat is located. He started his career in grocery warehouse distribution with Associated Grocers of Maine, a company he was with for 10 years. He was working in distribution and parts when the opportunity arose to work for the manufacturer. When the internationally recognized company opened a facility in Texas in 1998, Craig secured a position in industry relations for all of North America, including Canada and Mexico.
“I saw all 50 states and every Canadian province,” he said, adding that he’d also travel to Taiwan twice a year to the organization’s parent company.
Craig was still with the company in 2012 when Travis was injured.
“I took a leap of faith and quit my job to be with them,” Craig said. “Chloe was only six months old and when Travis first got hurt, they didn’t know how long he’d be in the hospital – maybe two or three years, they thought. Kelsey couldn’t be his caregiver and take care of Chloe and it was comforting for Kelsey to have me there.”
Craig spent 14 months at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center while Travis learned how to, among many things, walk again. Craig and his wife, Tammy, remodeled their home in Texas so Travis, Kelsey and Chloe would have a place to stay when they were ready to leave Walter Reed.
Meanwhile, Travis’s story spread far and wide – he was one of only five quadruple amputees from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan to survive their injuries. The Gary Sinise Foundation offered to build an accessible house for Travis and his family. The only question was: “Where?”
Kelsey and Travis agreed that the home would be be built in Maine where they knew family would be nearby, and Craig and Tammy moved back to their home state. Travis wanted to give back to veterans and so Craig was right there at the kitchen table with his daughter and son-in-law, helping fill out paperwork to form the non-profit organization.
What started as an effort to send care packages to soldiers, turned into what is the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine.
Craig is avid hiker and outdoorsman and loves that Maine offers four distinct seasons for retreat activities.
“Being outdoors is good for everyone’s spirit,” he said, adding that since the retreat’s inception, he’s met families who have come from cities who never had a chance to experience nature.
“We have it all -,” he added “water, mountains, rivers, snow.”
As Chief Strategy Officer of the Foundation, one of Craig’s responsibilities is to oversee all departments and to ensure they are on track to meet goals now and in the future. He’s eager to see the Foundation’s new Health and Wellness Center come to fruition in Summer 2022 – an idea that had been in the works for some time.
In terms of the future and making sure the Foundation grows appropriately and is sustainable, Craig would like to see an endowment established. He also works to assure that the Foundation is stewarding donor dollars responsibly and in the most transparent way possible.
Craig travels with Travis throughout the country for Travis’s role as a motivational speaker.
“We’re typically on the road 100 to 120 days a year,” Craig said. “We’re together 24/7.”
Craig does everything from driving he and Travis to and from appearances to putting Travis’s legs on each morning. While it may seem like business as usual for Craig, he’s often reminded of the impact Travis has on others.
“It’s really a privilege for me to be able to do this with him,” Craig said, adding that they are truly best friends. “He’s an inspiration to every group he speaks with and every individual he meets.”
“He changes lives,” Craig added.