Maintenance window scheduled to begin at February 14th 2200 est. until 0400 est. February 15th


Forgot Password?

    Defense Visual Information Distribution Service Logo

    Michigan National Guard Soldier uses sign language at vaccination events

    Michigan National Guard Soldier uses sign language at vaccination events

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera | U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Fitrakis, 1460th Transportation Company, Michigan Army National...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Tegan Kucera 

    Michigan National Guard

    MARINE CITY, Mich. – The Michigan National Guard (MING) has been assisting Michiganders throughout the pandemic and one Soldier has a unique way to assist those with hearing impairments—through American Sign Language (ASL). During a recent vaccination clinic, U.S. Army Sgt. Bill Fitrakis, assigned to the 1460th Transportation Company based in Midland as a truck driver, was able to put his ASL training to use.
    “I absolutely enjoy and love what I do for work,” said Fitrakis, whose civilian career is an ASL interpreter. “I reenlisted back into the MING after a 12 year break to support the vaccination effort to help save lives.”
    Fitrakis serves as a non-commissioned officer with Task Force Spartan, one of four COVID-19 response task forces that were assembled by the Michigan National Guard, assisting central Michigan health departments with vaccination clinics. By using ASL, he is able to help the COVID-19 mission in a very unique way.
    “I have such a sense of purpose having been able to help support the COVID-19 vaccination clinics and helping people in the State of Michigan get back closer to a time of normalcy,” said Fitrakis.
    Fitrakis became ASL certified shortly after 2008. He is passionate about ASL because his birth mother is hearing impaired.
    “My first language technically would be ASL since it was my mother’s language,” said Fitrakis. “Babies can pick up and sign much earlier than they can speak.”
    Fitrakis has a hearing impaired roommate who he helps out as well. He is fully immersed in the community and is always up to date on the qualifications that go along with his ASL certification. He says there are always changes being made within it.
    “ASL is unique in that unlike spoken English there are so many parts of the language that looks like fluid, beautiful movements in an orchestrated concert, much like art or acting,” said Fitrakis. “I have been graciously taught by my mother and the many wonderful deaf individuals that have helped sustain me throughout my career. My mother and deaf friends have been my greatest allies helping to get me to a point where I was able to pass the certification requirements in the State of Michigan.”
    He is currently a self-contracted sign language interpreter and uses his skills at churches, colleges, comedy shows, and political rallies. Wherever his skills are needed, Fitrakis is there to help with translation.
    Individuals looking for more information about how serving in the Michigan Air or Army National Guard can offer great opportunities are encouraged to contact recruiters at: Michigan Army National Guard recruiting,, 888-906-1636, the Michigan Army National Guard app, or Michigan Air National Guard recruiting, 1-800-432-4296 or Facebook at



    Date Taken: 05.16.2021
    Date Posted: 05.17.2021 07:35
    Story ID: 396573
    Location: MARINE CITY, MI, US 

    Web Views: 202
    Downloads: 0