The entire Swick Family – including parents Bill and Laura Swick and their six children – donned royal blue shirts emblazoned with the motto while Bill recovered from a life-changing surgery that paralyzed him from the abdomen down.
In 2019 Bill was on track for 0-6 in the Navy and professor at the United States Naval Academy with nearly 25 years of service to our country when he went in for what was expected to be routine surgery on a herniated spinal cord. He planned to retire once he hit 30 years of service.
“I was even told the surgery went well,” said Laura, his wife of 24 years.
Not long after, the family learned that their entire lives would change due to an error in surgery. A man who used to run marathons would undergo months of intensive physical therapy – it wasn’t known whether he would walk again or not.
Bill was on track to achieve the rank of “Captain” in another few years and it was his plan to retire after serving 30 years.
After Bill’s injury, Laura became her husband’s full-time caregiver.
Travis Mills Foundation
Fast forward to summer 2022, when the entire Swick family was welcomed to the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat – their first full family vacation since Bill’s injury.
“I felt like we were in a period of devastation for a long time,” Laura said. “It was incredible to get everyone in one place – the littles and my big kids.”
The children in the Swick family range from age 6 to 20 years old and all had a wonderful time at the Retreat.
“Bill was able to participate in everything – we hadn’t experienced that,” Laura said.
Bill and Laura especially enjoyed watching their two older children, Maeve, 20 and Liam, 19, go tubing on the waterfront of the Retreat on Long Pond.
“I have photos of them tubing when they were little – the smiles on their faces – it was like they were little again,” Laura said.
Laura said it was eye opening for her children to be around other young people who had parents who had been injured while in service to their country.
“It was a beautiful thing,” she said.
In Fall 2022 Laura traveled back to the Travis Mills Foundation from Annapolis, Maryland, where the family resides, for a Caregiver Program at the Retreat.
The Travis Mills Foundation recognizes that injuries such as Bill’s affect every member of the family and that caregivers and loved ones often give up much to care for their recalibrated veterans. They, too, deserve rest and relaxation.
“It was nice to relax and the women were lovely,” Laura said.
When the Foundation holds the Caregiver Program it organizes the group of no more than eight individuals into wife/girlfriend/mother, husband/father.
“It was so nice not to cook!” she said, laughing.
She also enjoyed bonding with others who had similar experiences.
“You learn from everybody, but you’re able to help, too, which is important” she said.
“There are different stages in the grief journey when your partner is injured,” Laura added. “I was able to help people along and others helped me. That’s the best part of the Caregiver Program – you’re being cared for and you’re getting tidbits of information that help you along.”