As we put our burgers on the grill and lather on our sunscreen today, please take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day by remembering the fallen men and women who served our Country fighting for our Freedom. In addition to those who have given their lives, also remember those who have lost so much in battle, yet find the strength and perseverance to continue fighting in new ways for their Country. In honor of this, I would like to share with you the inspiring story Sgt. 1st Class Roy Mitchell, who I believe is the quintessential example of an American Soldier.
In 2003, while deployed in Afghanistan, Sgt. Mitchell was on patrol when his vehicle was struck by an anti-tank mine. He suffered the loss of his left leg, 3rd degree burns over 40% of his right leg, a shattered elbow, a shattered jaw, stress fractures throughout his face, the loss of several teeth, and shrapnel wounds.
Despite his injuries, Sgt. Mitchell was committed to remain an active-duty soldier and is now a Combat Team Career Counselor. As an infantry squad leader on the battlefield, Sgt. Mitchell was responsible for making sure the needs, wants and desires of his team of Soldiers were being met. Now, as an active-duty Career Counselor he does the same by ensuring the quality of life for Soldiers and their Families – off the battlefield. He cites helping Soldiers and their families as making Army career worthwhile. But that’s only half of Sgt. Mitchell’s incredible story thriving despite challenge.
Even though he faces intense physical pain and debilitating challenges, Sgt. Mitchell participates in many sporting events. He has even ridden his specially designed “hand-cycle” in a 300-mile race from the Adirondack Mountains to the Finger Lakes. He also plays golf, snow-ski’s, coaches the softball teams at his base – Fort Drum, and his church. He says that his motivation is to forge new roads, and open up opportunities that were not open before. In addition to his work as a Career Counselor, Sgt. Mitchell also takes time to visit with injured Soldiers, encouraging them in their fight for physical and mental survival from their injuries.
Sgt. Mitchell does not allow his disabilities to hold him back, but it is physically exhausting walking with his prosthetic and rolling his wheelchair for long periods of time. In 2008, Sgt. Mitchell was presented with a Segway transporter by the non-profit group Segs4Vets, which will provide a greater quality of life for him and his family, and make it easier for him to continue serving other injured Soldiers.
So as you go about your day, remember our fallen and remember our injured; and remember Sgt. Mitchell’s commitment to his Country, his family and to himself. It is an inspiring example of what our Nation’s Armed Forces represent. Thank a Vet – today, and everyday.
Be safe and always persevere.
This post originally published May 25, 2009