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The Luckiest Man Alive

Why Jeffrey Mittman’s experience made him who he is today.

I am the president and CEO of Bosma Enterprises, Indiana’s largest statewide employer of people who are blind or visually impaired. I became Bosma’s first legally blind CEO in August 2019, but my journey to become the luckiest man alive began long before then.

In 2005, I was a 35-year-old sergeant first class with 16 years of service under my belt on my fourth combat tour in the Middle East. I was serving as an adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior forces. On July 7, I was traveling to link up with my Iraqi battalion for a mission.

As I traveled under a highway overpass in Baghdad, an improvised explosive device went off. Metal tore through the vehicle directly into my face.

I woke up a month later to my wife Christy’s voice. Wondering why she was in Baghdad, I tried to speak and open my eyes but couldn’t. She explained we weren’t in Baghdad but at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Later, a team of surgeons explained that my vision was gone forever.

As I processed the news that I had lost most of my vision, I learned the very same day that a close friend of mine died at the nearby Naval Medical Center. Two weeks prior, while I was unconscious at Walter Reed, he suffered a similar roadside attack not far from where my convoy was bombed.

It was a lot to absorb in a very short period, and it came with mixed emotions—grief, sorrow, anger.

But somehow, instead of falling deep into these emotions, this news helped pull me out. I was still alive. I still had a family to come home to: my wife and two daughters.

I was lucky.

From that day on, I promised Christy and myself we would move forward and past any challenges this new life presented. That feeling grew once I saw my daughters. Nothing had changed for them. Their dad was home, even if he was a little different than before.

I went through over 40 surgeries in five years. Christy and I traveled endlessly from our home in New Palestine, Indiana, to Walter Reed and back. We were fortunate to be supported by friends, family and neighbors during that time. Christy was vital to my healing and later successes. She carried our family on her back.

You might wonder how I could consider myself the luckiest man alive. It’s simple: I’m still alive.

I could have died that day in Baghdad, but I didn’t. I also could have lost myself mentally that day, but I didn’t. I could have continued to be sorrowful for years, but I didn’t. It took some time, but I picked myself up and put the pieces of this new life together.

Now, almost 20 years later, I’ve earned two graduate degrees from Ball State University, an MBA and a master’s in executive development in public service. That led me to serve as the first legally blind president and CEO of Bosma Enterprises and as president of the National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind.

I might not be where I am today without my military experience and support during my recovery, and that’s why I consider myself lucky.

MSgt (Ret.) Jeffrey Mittman is a 22-year U.S. Army veteran and now the president and CEO of Bosma Enterprises, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for people who are blind.

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