Virginia resident Aaron Brooks has spent two weeks at the Travis Mills Foundation Veterans Retreat with his daughter, Kelise, the first in 2019 and the second, this past summer.
Both, however, were very different experiences.
In 2019, the trip with then 14-year-old Kelise was the first journey the father and daughter took after a brain injury Aaron experienced while in service to his country – a bullet is still lodged in his head, in fact.
The trip was wonderful by all standards – Kelise said the rooms were beautiful and compared them to mini, chic apartments. It was also the first time both of them had visited Maine.
There was something holding them back, however.
Aaron, who served six years in the Army, weighed in at about 300 pounds.
“I still had a good time,” Aaron said, “but there were limitations because of my weight. I told myself that if I ever got to come back to the retreat, I would be in better physical condition.”
Before Aaron left the retreat, he talked to the retreat’s Program Director, Dr. Kelly Roseberry, about how he could adapt exercises and change his diet to become a healthier person overall.
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Fast forward to Aaron and his daughter’s 2021 visit to the retreat, and boy, were things different.
“I lost over 100 pounds,” Aaron said.
Aaron and Kelise did the ropes course together, which Aaron skipped last time because of his weight.
“It was a little scary, but I got it done,” he said proudly.
They also went tubing, which Aaron also didn’t do during the 2019 visit.
“Maine is a beautiful state,” Aaron said, adding that his appreciation for it was even greater after his second visit. “It’s clean, it has so many natural resources, the temperature was great – it was quiet, and so green and bright.”
“It was also my first time swimming in a lake,” he added.
Both Aaron and Kelise loved both experiences at the retreat.
“I would even live there!” Kelise enthusiastically added.
Both father and daughter recommend the retreat to any recalibrated veteran or their families that they meet.
“Everyone was so nice, very accommodating, and supportive,” Aaron said. “We were so thankful.”
The Travis Mills Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports post-911 veterans who experienced life changing injuries while in service to our country. We offer our nation’s recalibrated veterans and their families a week-long, barrier free, all expenses paid experience at our world-class retreat in the Belgrade Lakes Region of Maine. We offer various programs that help these brave men and women overcome physical and emotional obstacles, strengthen their families, and provide well-deserved rest and relaxation.