Justus Mills

2022 Salute to Veterans

Hometown: Gladstone
Service Branch: U.S. Marine Corps - 1978-84 | US Army Reserve - 1993-2014
Theater of operations: Iraq



Retired Master Sgt. Justus Mills is described as the “strong boots-on-the-ground for Tools4Troops” by the nonprofit organization’s Director of Operations, Patt Bilow.

“He has been instrumental in helping Tools4Troops give free tools for veterans and active-duty service members,” Bilow said of Mills.

Skilled in recruiting others to help with the mission of Tools4Troops, Mills is credited with distributing $650,000 worth of tools during his years of volunteer service. The nonprofit’s goal is to provide free hand and power tools to veterans and serving members of the five military branches of the U.S. armed forces.

“We believe tools enable veterans and service members to improve their world and access wider employment opportunities,” Bilow said. “We are just getting back up to our distributions as many veteran stand-downs were canceled due to COVID. Justus is a magnet for providing service and tools to veterans.”

Now known as a “natural leader” who travels throughout the Pacific Northwest to distribute free tools to veterans, Mills wasn’t always such a go-getter. He said he “didn’t have any plans after high school.” After working in a series of what he called “menial jobs,” Mills went down to the recruiting office to join the Marines. He shipped out to boot camp in January 1978.

Mills said he had a guaranteed contract when going into the Marines as an aircraft mechanic. He went to aircraft schools for about six months after boot camp and served as a mechanic for four years.

Some of the best things about serving in the military for Mills were learning a trade and having camaraderie with other service members. Mills said the most challenging aspect of military service was spending time away from home.

At the Stanley tool company, Mills was hired by a Navy veteran who reviewed his application and hired him as a full-time employee in the store’s inventory area of its manufacturing facility in Milwaukie. Having worked at a tool company all of his life, Mill took on a collateral duty at Stanley to be a lead person for the company’s veteran network.

“I moved up the ranks and had a great career as a support representative for sales, service and manufacturing,” he said.

With some overlap between the two roles, Mills served as an Army quartermaster/instructor for 17 years and was a customer service and sales representative for Stanley for 34 years.

“I think integrity and selfless service are the core values that I bring to the organization,” he said.

Mills said Stanley was “very supportive of the military,” and Mills used his military acumen to help support Stanley as well.
“Balance was important,” Mills said.

Mills started college in 1990 and finished in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in management and organizational leadership.
“I learned a lot from civilian business, but my start was the USMC,” he said. “I have lots of stories, but being a Marine has made my life.”

As a mechanic by trade, “everything in life involves a mechanical process” in Mills’ worldview. His mechanical knowledge has also proven helpful in his role as the adjutant for the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Oregon City, another nonprofit organization where he lends his volunteer support.