Every time graduate student Jeff Mittman opens his computer to log into an online course
or attends a class at the Ball State Indianapolis Center
, he knows no obstacle can stop him.
The former Army sergeant has set many goals for himself. He won't allow the loss of most of his vision—the result of a roadside bomb that tore through his armored Humvee in 2005 while on duty in Iraq—to stand in his way.
After dozens of surgeries to repair damage to his face, Mittman is well on his way to earning a master's degree in executive development.
"I like to tell people that I am the luckiest man on earth because I'll still get to grow old with my wife and see my kids grow up," says Mittman, who has been featured at annual Veterans Day observations around the state and praised on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Sen. Richard Lugar. "My blindness and other disabilities cause me a certain amount of inconvenience but provide opportunities and experiences that are invaluable to me and my family."
An admitted computer geek, he spends a great deal of time with his electronic devices and smartphones in order to keep up with the latest news, communicate with fellow students, and research information for papers or projects for his classes.
"Technology is the great equalizer. My computers and the software allow me to perform and study just like any other student. My military background has trained me to set goals and focus on going through the necessary steps to accomplish those goals."
Mittman says he chose the master's program at Ball State because of the university's national reputation for assisting disabled students as well as its work to help disabled veterans transition from the battlefield to the classroom.
"The transition was seamless," he says. "The folks at Ball State have been wonderful as I work on my graduate degree, which I decided would give me an advantage in the job market."
In 2009, Ball State was named a 2010 Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs, placing the university in the top 15 percent of all schools nationwide, and one of only 60 Military Friendly Universities by Military Advanced Education Magazine
in 2009. Beck Hannaford
, Ball State's veterans benefits and financial assistant coordinator, has become fast friends with Mittman, even inviting the him to speak at a campuswide Veterans Day celebration in the fall of 2010.
"Jeff has sure been through a heck of a lot, but I am not surprised by his dedication in the classroom," Hannaford says. "You spend five minutes with the guy and you know he can succeed no matter what obstacles might be in his way."
Even though Mittman is unsure what lies in store for him, he vows to continue to speak to other veterans about taking on new challenges.
"Blind people go on to become lawyers, teachers and hold public office. As veterans, I think we have a great deal we can give back to our country."