Volunteers Find Meaning in Spending Time at the Travis Mills Foundation

Windham, Maine, residents Don and Meredith Lewis have been volunteers with the Travis Mills Foundation for five and four years, respectively. Together, they have spent upwards of 1,100 hours volunteering – and have even turned it into a friendly competition to see who could get more hours.

“Informally, we track the number of trips we’ve made to the Retreat from the airport and the hours. Meredith is closing the gap on me, slowly,” Don said.

“He started a year ahead of me, so I’m always behind,” Meredith laughed. “I catch up little by little.”

While they do not know the exact moment they heard about the Foundation, they knew they were meant to be volunteers, serving post-911 recalibrated veterans and their families.

Don served in the U.S. Army for 26 years and upon retirement has found joy in his time volunteering at the Foundation.

“It gives meaning,” Don said. “We are both retired and we have the time – that is actually a pretty important point, because we both have so much [free] time that volunteering assignments with the Travis Mills Foundation gives us real purpose on any given day.”

Don and Meredith constantly look at each month’s calendar, where volunteer shifts are posted – mainly, airport runs.

The couple lives just a short distance away from the Portland Jetport, where many of our veterans and their families travel through when arriving and departing from Maine. Don and Meredith are always eager to welcome them – many for the first time.

“It is so nice if we pick up the same family and bring them back, to see the difference, especially if they are first timers,” Meredith said. “And the stories they tell – it is heartwarming. That is what makes it all worthwhile. We just love doing what we do.”

Meredith especially enjoys driving Warrior PATHH (Progressive & Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) participants, and witnessing the change that happens in just one week.

She recalls driving one Warrior PATHH participant back to the airport after the rigorous seven-day, on-site training.

“I picked him up, and he said he called home and his wife didn’t even recognize his voice because he changed so much in the week that he’d been there,” she said.

Some of Maine’s most notable landmarks are its many lighthouses, which this particular Warrior PATHH graduate was enthusiastic to see. In fact, he wanted to see as many lighthouses as possible.

Meredith gladly accepted the challenge and got him to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

“He made the flight, and he was happy. That was just a nice memory for me,” Meredith added.

One of Don’s favorite memories is not necessarily something he did, but something he witnessed.

The medical team who flew Travis from Landstuhl, Germany, to Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital after he was injured in 2012, participated in the Foundation’s 2019 Plane Pull®, raising funds for TMF.

“That was perhaps one of the most memorable things that has happened during my volunteering,” he said.

VIETNAM BREAKFAST

Don proudly served our country during the Vietnam era. In 2023, they were invited to the Travis Mills Foundation Vietnam-Era Veterans Breakfast and to spend a week at the Veterans Retreat, experiencing what post-911 veterans and their families experience on a weekly basis at the Foundation.

“It was kind of surreal, to be honest,” Don said.

They were so accustomed to volunteering at the Foundation that it was enjoyable to see it from a different perspective.

“We never see how hard the people who work there – work. We saw how hard they work. We had a ball,” Meredith said.

The Travis Mills Foundation is grateful for Don and Meredith, along with the rest of the volunteer team, who make the Foundation the experience it is.

To volunteer with the Travis Mills Foundation, sign up here!