New Palestine soldier recovers from facial injury
John Stehr/Eyewitness News
Hancock County - Thousands of Hoosiers have been involved in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. SFC Jeff Mittmann is one of them. A career soldier, Mittmann is still healing from the effects of war.
On a quiet cul-de-sac in New Palestine, a military star hangs in the window. It is the traditional symbol for a family member at war. But in this home, the warrior has returned.
"He's back, but we have many other friends that are considered family that are still there or are ready to go back over, so it will always stay in the window," said Christy Mittmann, Jeff's wife.
SFC Mittman returned from Iraq over two years ago, one of thousands of veterans wounded by a roadside bomb.
"That's the helmet I was wearing when I was hit. You can see there's only one little tear here so this is probably what saved my life, quite frankly. It took the brunt of the blast," he said.
The explosion tore through his Humvee and nearly decapitated him. "I realize that a 16th of an inch the other way, and I would have last my head, I know that."
Jeff Mittmann survived with severe injuries. Eyewitness News first met him last year early in his recovery, when doctors at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington were just beginning a series of surgeries to repair his face.
The progress is evident now, although he wears sunglasses to protect the very-limited eyesight he has left. Despite that limitation, Mittman still has a clear vision and positive attitude about his future.
"Things happen to you through life. Things happen to everybody. And I remember waking up at Walter Reed and never really being upset about what happened. To me it just happened and there wasn't anything I could do about it so I just keep moving on," he said.
In less than two years, Mittmann will be able to retire from the military with full benefits and begin a second career. He doesn't know yet what that will be, but he does know where it will be.
For a man who's travelled all over the world, he has no desire to live anywhere but Indiana. The area suits his growing family, which has seen an outpouring of support from friends, neighbors, church and family.
A newly-added room on his house contains specialized equipment to help him overcome his physical limitations. The environment helps keep him positive, even to the point of seeing the bright side of his injury - a lesson that he can teach daughters Jamie and Peyton.
"It gives me an opportunity to set an example for them that, you know, you can overcome your limitations, you can overcome things that happen to you 'cause bad things happen to everybody," he said.
Despite those bad things, the Mittmans want the rest of us to know that their family is intact, and well on the road to recovery. More important than his sight are the things that Jeff Mittman has not lost sight of.
"I'm 37 years old and I've only really had one bad day in my entire life, so I'm happy every morning when I get up," he said.
Jeff Mittman will be at a "Support our Troops" fundraiser on Saturday night at Camp Sertoma on the east side. It's located near German Church and Brookville Roads. Call 833-0025 or click here.