By Ms. Clester Burdell (AMC)December 23, 2009
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - While serving in Iraq, his team came under attack in July 2005. An improvised explosive device exploded penetrated his vehicle, leaving a hole about the size of his fist. It left him without a nose, lips, most of his teeth, and the majority of his vision. But it didn't take his strength and faith.
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Mittman, an Indiana native, spoke at Anniston Army Depot's Physical Fitness Center on Dec. 17 to more than 400 depot employees and community leaders under the auspices of Operation Tell Your Story.
Mittman's story of survival is unique.
"The fact that I survived is by the grace of God," said Mittman. "Had I been driving faster, I might have been decapitated."
A month later, Mittman woke up at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington, D.C., somewhat incoherent. "I could hear my wife's voice. She'd tell me what was happening. She was my protector."
He also credits his daughters, now 8 and 12, with his recovery process. With hopes of preparing them for the hospital visit, his wife showed the girls pictures of their father. "My oldest daughter said it was okay, 'I still see Daddy.'"
Today, he has endured more than 40 surgeries.
Mittman showed no signs of self pity as he incorporated humor into the fabric of his message. While speaking about the numerous major reconstructive surgeries, Mittman's wit surfaced as he made reference to the team of medical professionals who often performed simultaneous procedures. "The optometrist was constructing plastic surgery while the plastic surgeon was working on my eyes. I'm just glad they didn't ask the proctologist to reconstruct my lips."
The 20-year veteran plans to retire soon. The major surgeries have ended; he'll undergo additional cosmetic surgeries.
Depot employees chuckled and cried at Mittman's message. Workers couldn't wait to express their appreciation for his bravery and gallantry.
"I was truly amazed at his message. I'm thankful for the selfless service he gave to our nation during a time of war," said Ken Freeman, Air Force veteran and Component Support Branch supervisor. "He shared a very compelling story."
Following the event, Mittman toured the installation's Career Academy, Anniston Chemical Activity, Anniston Defense Munitions Center, Combat Vehicle Disassembly/Assembly, Small Arms Repair, and Power Train Flexible Maintenance facilities.
"This is my first trip to the Anniston and I am glad to meet the employees who ensure the Soldiers have what they need when they need it," he said.
Operation Tell Your Story, a quarterly program, is a depot-led initiative that allows Soldiers a firsthand look at how their combat vehicles, small arms weapons, and artillery pieces are refurbished, while allowing the workforce an opportunity to meet the Soldiers who use them.