Nothing stops Easton Kons.
Life hasn’t necessarily been fair to him—he was born deaf and later developed Stargardt’s disease, a condition causing deterioration of the retina. But, fair or not, Easton’s disabilities don’t stop him. After he lost all hearing at age 18, Easton went years before getting a cochlear implant to once again hear the sounds of life. A wild card in his youth, he never let anyone tell him something was too much or too dangerous for him to handle. It was for him to decide. Because for every obstacle life throws at him, he finds a way.
“Before I started at the IBVI, I was working with my dad,” Easton explains, starting with how he used to work at his father’s excavation company. “I actually came straight from the trenches of dirt digging.”
Even though he was accustomed to backbreaking manual labor in the elements for 14-hour days, Easton wanted more out of his career. Both he and his father agreed that digging wasn’t the best path for him and his conditions—but, soon enough, a friend told Easton about a job opening at IBVI. He called. He interviewed. He got the job. In 2017, he became one of our first employees at the Menomonee Falls facility.
A standup employee from the get-go, Easton never backed down from a challenge and worked his way up to building and assembling tool kits for the U.S.military. Now an expert tool kitter, he’s capable of nailing 36 industrial sized crates in under 2 minutes. But it hasn’t been easy. It took years of practice and perfection for Easton to get where he is today. He was given a chance—even though he didn’t fully know what the outcome would be—and ran with the opportunity and learned through experience.
“I really think that [IBVI] has really shown me what I can do. The sky’s the limit,” Easton said. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t until you know you can’t. It’s amazing how much you can achieve with just the thought of knowing you can.”
As a tool kitter, he’s gone above and beyond what’s typically expected of someone like him. From tray to case to crate assembly, Easton makes sure everything is flush and properly set. Nail gun in hand, he puts the final nail in.
“The best part of my job is when I finish a shop order, when I’m nailing up the crates,” Easton said when asked about his favorite part of his job. “I can shoot maybe 300 nails a minute. And when I’m done, I just know that it’s done.” Plus, he loves working with the people here because they’re a “well-oiled machine of teamwork.”
Every tool—in every kit—must be in perfect condition with no scratches and must work perfectly when it reaches its final destination. This becomes doubly important when it comes to tool kitting for the U.S. military. Complacency can’t even begin to enter into his attitude.
“You should always raise the bar and always shoot for the stars,” Easton said.
When the U.S. military comes to IBVI to inspect kits and pick them up for use, Easton describes them as children on the morning of Christmas—unwrapping boxes with eyes wide open and filled with excitement. Some are even shocked that a person with a visual impairment helped create such an extensive and precise product. “It’s really heartwarming when they say they love it, and they’re ready to take it … and then when they watch me nail it all off.”
“It’s really, really awesome to see them come and pick up their kits.”
Because of his vision and hearing impairments, Easton cannot serve in the military. But, as with every other obstacle in Easton’s way, this doesn’t stop him from forging a new path. For him, helping put together kits allows him to serve in his own way.
“We protect each other,” he said. “We serve each other.”
More recently, COVID-19 put a new obstacle in front of Eastonand his wife’s wedding plans. But they didn’t stop. With a few friends, they got married at a park and made the best of the current situation. Easton describes it as one of the greatest days of his life—because in both work and love, he sees adversity as a motivator for fulfillment. When the journey gets hard, the rewards become greater.
“If I hadn’t had disabilities, I would’ve turned out to be a completely different person,” Easton said. “I would have been just some other ordinary person just living his life.”
“But as someone with a disability, I live my life to the fullest.”
Looking forward, he welcomes the challenges to come. Something bigger lies beyond the horizon for Easton, and he’s ready to meet it.
To explore your full potential, consider applying for a job at IBVI.