With Veteran’s Day on Sunday, it is a good time to remember your “cable guy” or “cable gal.” I say that in all seriousness, because there is a very good chance the cable technician who comes to your home or the person who answers the phone has served in the military.
About 12 percent of the nearly 3,400 people who work for Comcast here in Washington are Veterans and Reservists.
Today, we honored our Veterans and Reservists with a breakfast event at the Comcast Arena in Everett. The keynote speaker was Matt Stutzman, a 30-year-old from Iowa who was born without arms.
What makes Stutzman’s story so interesting is that despite his disability, he won a silver medal in the London Paralympics in archery. He also set a world record by hitting a target from nearly 300 yards away.
Stutzman, who was adopted, grew up in a family that allowed him the freedom to try almost anything he wanted to accomplish. When he was young, he dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player or a race car driver. No one told him he couldn’t achieve those dreams.
He grew up with no special accommodations, learning to do everything, including his school work, playing guitar and driving a car, using only his feet. He took up serious archery only about three years ago and now regularly competes against the best able bodied archers in the world. He is married and has three children—all of whom, he likes to point out, have arms.
While Stutzman likes to joke about his disability and clearly was adopted by a loving and supportive family, the reality is nothing about his story was easy. He had to fight the local bureaucracy to get a driver’s license even though he passed his driving test with ease. He left home at 19 and bounced around a series of odd jobs, before discovering his passion for archery.
And through it all, he had to wage constant battle against the prejudices, both subtle and obvious, that people with disabilities face every day. He was once turned down for a job, because he was told he needed to have prosthetic arms.
He was once thrown out of a soccer game, because the referee accused him of cheating, thinking he was hiding his arms under his jersey. In another game, a referee actually called him for “hands,” even though he doesn’t have any hands or arms to touch a ball.
He overcame all of this. Matt’s message to the Comcast employees: don’t give up, don’t let others define you.
His message stuck a chord with his audience today. Military Veterans have long been an important part of Comcast. They work at every level of the company, including the very top. Neil Smit, who is the President and Chief Executive of Comcast Cable, served for five and a half years on active duty with the Navy SEAL Teams, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander.
However, the majority of our Veterans and Reservists serve as our cable technicians or “cable guys,” where they can apply the communications and technical training they learned in the military. Like Matt Stutzman, many have overcome a lot to get here, serving tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. And like Matt, they want you to think differently about them.
The men and women who you see driving the Xfinity trucks or visiting your home to get your high speed Internet service back up and running more than likely served in our military and were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Something to think about next time you are waiting for the “cable guy.”