Rome, Maine resident Phil Burnworth began volunteering at the Travis Mills Foundation during the summer of 2023 and has found joy in every second he spends serving post-9/11 recalibrated veterans and their families.
“Every day is pretty special,” he said. “That is what is neat about it.”
Phil served in the U.S. Navy during the 1980s – serving most of his time on a submarine. He believes that as a veteran himself, he was drawn to continuing to serve other veterans and their families. He finds he is able to connect with recalibrated veterans who come through the TMF doors.
“It is a brotherhood kind of connection,” Phil said. “I manage to fall in between Vietnam and the Iraq and Afghanistan time – so I have an appreciation for these guys and what they have been through. It is not the same as what I would have gone through or could have gone through. But, it is that [thought of], writing a blank check to the U.S. government up to and including your life.”
Since moving to Maine, Phil has found a new passion in volunteering at the Veterans Retreat.
“Seeing these people who have been injured and choose to get up and do something every day is pretty spiritually motivating,” Phil said. “It’s gotten me off the couch and busy doing stuff.”
While he has volunteered in many capacities, including airport runs and event set-up, Phil most enjoys volunteering in the kitchen.
“The kitchen staff is terrific,” Phil added.
Kitchen volunteers during the lunch shift get a unique glimpse of what is going on at the Retreat. While most participants and their families spend their mornings in programming, the staff is busy at work. However, during lunch hour, kitchen volunteers enjoy seeing the pause in everyone’s day when they come together to enjoy lunch in the Retreat dining room.
“Lunchtime is one of my favorite times to work because the staff come through and they eat the same food the participants are eating; and it is a good time to say ‘hi’. They always say hi and they always say thank you so that is really cool.”
Phil also enjoys getting to reconnect with families he picked up from the airport a few days prior. Phil refers to the experience as uplifting.
The Portland Jetport is located approximately an hour and a half away from the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat, allowing volunteers a lot of time to get to know families as they come to the Retreat for the first time or for another visit.
“Picking up the veteran and riding over with him, we got to know each other really well, and by the end of the week, he called me ‘Brother,’ which made my spirit soar.
[Airport runs] are a lot of fun and good for the spirit.” The Travis Mills Foundation is grateful for the support and dedication of volunteers like Phil. To volunteer, learn more here.