Instructor followed his passion for welding
“Work hard, follow your dreams, and have fun,” pretty much sums up Jim Hamilton’s approach to life.
Hamilton, who coordinates the RCC Industrial Welding program, has followed this credo, bailing out of a 30-year banking career when it ceased to be fun and coming to RCC to study and then teach welding. “Welding is my passion,” he said.
Following a two-year stint as a part-time welding instructor and lab aide, Hamilton was hired as assistant director of Financial Aid at Rogue. But in 2004 the welding instructor position became available, and once again he followed his dreams into the welding lab. Hamilton, who earned an associate degree in welding from RCC, also holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from California State University, Fullerton.
Helping people change and better their lives is the greatest part of teaching for Hamilton. “We do a lot here to give students a skill that will help make them so employable,” he said.
A U.S. Army captain during the Vietnam War, Hamilton says teaching and advising vets holds particularly meaning for him. Welding student and fellow veteran Marty Miller appreciates Hamilton’s support and understanding.
“He knows how to relate with all kinds of people. He’s a real good guy, and wants you to do it well,” Miller said.
Hamilton has enjoyed watching Miller become more skilled and confident. “Working with Marty,” he said, “has been very rewarding to see him blossom and grow.”
College helps veteran move
For veteran and Rogue Community College student Marty Miller, the finest thing about working with metal is the myriad possibilities it presents.
“There are no limits to what you can do and make,” said Miller, a second-year industrial welding student who also has taken machining and metal sculpture classes. “Fusing metal together is intriguing…you can do anything and it’s built to last,” he added.
And for Miller, who served in the U.S. Army and was wounded in Iraq, the best thing about college is how it’s helping him move beyond physical and mental barriers.
“College keeps my mind busy and helps me keep from dwelling on the past,” he explained. Miller suffered serious head trauma in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near his Humvee. He’s undergone numerous surgeries over the past five years to control internal bleeding.
And along with post-traumatic stress disorder, he struggles with vertigo and has problems with certain thinking processes, making subjects like math especially challenging.
Yet Miller has persevered at RCC with the help of his wife, Katie, and his instructors. Now 30, his hard work is paying off; he’s compiled a 3.7 GPA and made the RCC honor roll. The RCC Foundation also helped Miller by awarding him scholarships.
“These scholarships enabled me to focus completely on my goal of graduating while taking care of my health,” he noted.
Academics weren’t always a victory for Miller. He lost interest and dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and went to work in a mill to support his mother. Lacking direction, however, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1997 at age 19.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do, but ‘Three hots and a cot’ sounded good,” he recalled. After four years active duty, he joined the National Guard aiming to get to Iraq. Attached to the First Cavalry, his unit served in Fallujah, Baghdad and other “hot zones.”
“Iraq was not what I expected,” Miller said. Not knowing whom the enemy was and being under near continuous attack made for a “really bad time,” he explained. Miller, who received multiple awards for meritorious actions, including the prestigious Combat Infantry Badge, is grateful for his time in the service.
“It was through my military experience that I gained confidence in my ability to learn while instilling personal values and a positive self-image,” he said. “While I do not regret my time of service overseas in Iraq, the experience forced me to reevaluate my short- and long-term goals.”
He started attending RCC in 2007 because Rogue offered the training he needed near his Jacksonville home. The college also helps with life’s social aspects. “I’ve made friends here,” he said. “Another student’s teaching me how to play guitar.”
Miller especially appreciates instructor Jim Hamilton, head of the RCC Welding Department and a fellow veteran. “From the get-go we hit it off,” Miller said. “He’s supportive and makes suggestions; he doesn’t tell you how to do things. He knows how to relate with all kinds of people,” Miller added. “He’s a good adviser…and he understands the VA.”
Hamilton’s own Army experiences contribute to a special bond, Miller said. “Jim knows what’s appropriate to talk about. He tells me, ‘You’re doing good, keep going.’ It’s amazing how some quick words can help you out.”
After graduation, Miller says, he might like to start a small low-key business and “maybe invent something.” He especially enjoys making roll cages and bumpers for off-road vehicles. And he hopes some other veterans will see this interview, think about attending college, and investigate the G.I. education benefits.
“I would be glad to talk with them about it and help support them,” Miller said. “As a disabled veteran of the Iraq war, I know the hardships returning soldiers have to deal with, both mental and physical. I also know that one of the most important tools in the healing process is the feeling of support.”
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