The week of August 27th, Travis Mills Foundation Ambassador and recalibrated veteran Dan Burgess had the opportunity to attend a Bear Hunt with another Maine-based organization, House in the Woods – a non-profit organization located in Lee, Maine. House in the Woods allows service members, veterans, and Gold Star families of any era to take part in outdoor activities such as canoeing, kayaking, hiking, hunting, fishing, and much more!
About House in the Woods
Paul and Dee House, founded House in the Woods when their son, Joel House, was killed in Iraq from an improvised explosive device (IED) incident in 2007 – three other soldiers, along with an interpreter, died from the incident.
“He was on his second tour in Iraq,” Paul said. “They were in Taji and that was when they had a big offensive push over there – was really bad.”
After the funeral was held in Fort Hood, Texas on July 19, 2007, Paul was sitting with a retired Lieutenant Colonel who knew Joel.
“It was definitely a calling by God,” Paul recalled. “I tell people this is God’s work and that’s where it all started.”
Paul and Dee did not have a clear vision of what House in the Woods would be, but they knew it would be something impactful.
“We knew we wanted a non-profit for veterans, Gold Star families, and Active military.”
Since opening their doors in June 2010, House in the Woods has supported over 1,900 veterans, Gold Star Families, and Active Duty military personnel on hunting trips, fishing trips from over 35 states.
The House in the Woods lodge accommodates up to 18 participants during each trip. The entire property is outfitted with ADA accessible equipment so that all veterans can enjoy the property and views of Maine, no matter the disability.
“It’s our passion and we love doing it,” Paul said.
“What makes House in the Woods so special is that the mission is from the desire of Paul and Dee, and from God,” Angie Gade, Development and Social Media Coordinator said. “The mission is to create an environment that’s like home. That’s why I always say to get up and have crazy hair and coffee with your friends. You are never meant to feel alone.”
When given the invitation to attend a bear hunt with House in the Woods, Dan was very happy to accept. While he was an avid hunter when he lived in Ohio, this was his first time going on a bear hunt.
“The hunt experience I had with House in the Woods is unlike any other experience I have had on a hunt,” Dan said. “I was able to connect with other veterans who – while they are not going through my same circumstances – have been through similar, or have a level of understanding.”
Dan and his family – wife Genette, and adult daughters Gracie and Kaylee, have been to the Travis Mills Foundation Retreat a number of times and enjoy every second of their stay.
“The Travis Mills Foundation not only provides a break from our everyday lives, but it also provides us with an extended family that we are able to rely on and learn about other resources such as House in the Woods,” Dan said.
While he had not been hunting many times since his injury, his time at House in the Woods proved to him that he could still do things he enjoyed – like hunting – even with his disabilities.
“We offer a lot of capabilities,” Paul said.
While hunting can be difficult for those post injury, House in the Woods provides accommodations such as track chairs, to be able to give veterans the ability to enjoy something they never thought they would do again, or to try a new hobby.
“The ability to be outside and connect with other veterans along with the solitude and peacefulness of sitting in the woods is very impactful,” Dan said. “I was able to be in an element that I was used to as a soldier regardless of my disability because their facility is fully ADA accessible, and they adapt anything I may need.”
The Travis Mills Foundation is very grateful to partner with organizations like House in the Woods to give back to veterans and their families.
“Thank you to House in the Woods and TMF for allowing me to have this amazing opportunity to have a once in a lifetime experience,” Dan said.
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 >>>