By Robert D. Utter
NORTH STONINGTON - A handful of lucky dedicated Wheeler High School students will be headed to Augusta, Maine, early this spring on a remarkable service mission.
Members of the school’s Give Back Club were given the go-ahead by the Board of Education at the board’s regular meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 12, to spend a couple of days working for the Travis Mills Foundation on March 26th and 27th. The foundation invited the students to help serve breakfast to more than 800 Vietnam veterans at the Augusta Armory.
The five students will travel with Give Back’s advisors Rebecca Schilke and Becca Costello, spend the night at Augusta Homewood Suites, and help prepare and serve breakfast to the veterans.
Specifically, they will be setting the breakfast up Thursday night, then seating, serving and cleaning up afterwards on Friday before returning home.
They will also get to hear Retired Staff Sergeant Travis Mills, quadruple amputee from the Afghan war, speak to the veterans.
The students have been asked to donate $75 to cover the cost of the transportation and hotel.
“This is an amazing opportunity for Wheeler students,” Schilke and Costello commented in their proposal document. “We are honored that the foundation has again asked us got help out. We firmly believe that this would be an incredible opportunity for our Give Back students to serve those who have courageously served this country.”
The club served at the foundation’s veterans’ winter retreat last year, but this is the first time they will hear Mills speak. He is a sought-after public speaker.
Mills joined the United States Army in 2006. He was wounded by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on his third tour of duty on April 10, 2012, and he is one of only five quadruple amputees wounded in the Iraq/Afghan wars to survive his injuries. He lost portions of both legs and both arms.
He, his wife Kelsey, and his family bought and restored the former Elizabeth Arden estate in Rome, Maine, in 2015 and turned it into a retreat for wounded veterans. It opened in 2017. Any veterans since 2001 injured in active duty “or as a result of their service to our nation” can receive an all-inclusive, all-expenses paid, barrier-free vacation at the retreat where they participate in adaptive activities, bond with other veteran families, and enjoy rest and relaxation in Maine’s outdoors.
The Give Back Club at Wheeler currently has a remarkable 66 members, Schilke said. Last year, it had 30 and the year before, 12. The club meets three times a month.
Schilke has been co-advisor to the club for the last 6 of her 30 years of teaching.
Please contact the Milltown Monitor if you would like to provide financial assistance to the Give Back Club and we will explain how you can help.