During a White House ceremony, the president awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor recognizing Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller’s 2008 actions in Afghanistan. Miller’s parents, Phil and Maureen Miller, accepted the award.
“We are a nation of more than 300 million Americans. Of these, less than 1 percent wears the uniform of our armed services. And of these, just a small fraction has earned the badges of our special operations forces,” the president said. “In the finest military the world has ever known, these warriors are the best of the best. In an era that prizes celebrity and status, they are quiet professionals -- never seeking the spotlight. In a time of war, they have borne a burden far beyond their small numbers.”
The Medal of Honor is the highest military award a servicemember can receive for valor in action against a combatant force. Miller’s Medal of Honor is the seventh awarded, all posthumously, to troops serving in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A living soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, has been chosen for the award but has yet to receive it.
Miller served as a weapons sergeant for Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group Airborne. He was the team’s youngest member, on his second deployment to Afghanistan.
His team was supporting an Afghan Border Police security patrol in Kunar province Jan. 25, 2008. Taliban fighters opened fire on the group from nearby buildings and from behind boulders. The team called in air strikes on the enemy position, but came under fire again when they moved forward to search for survivors.
Miller’s team captain was seriously wounded, and Miller remained at the front of the patrol to lay down suppressive fire as the captain was moved to safety. Other team members bounded back over the snowy terrain to find cover and return fire.
Miller’s courage saved his captain’s life, and enabled seven of his fellow Special Forces soldiers and 15 Afghan troops to survive, gain cover and repel the attack, Army officials said.
Miller was born in Harrisburg, Pa., and raised in Wheaton, Ill. His family moved to Florida shortly after the young man graduated from Wheaton High School. He joined the Army in 2003, graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2004 and completed the Special Forces Weapons Sergeant Course in 2005.
In addition to his parents, Miller is survived by his brothers Thomas, Martin and Edward; and sisters Joanna, Mary, Therese and Patricia.
ZUI also this article:
A Pentagon ceremony today formally inscribed the name of Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, who yesterday was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, onto the nation’s list of military heroes.
In January 2008, Miller, at age 24, died in action in Afghanistan, charging the enemy through a hailstorm of bullets to give 22 other soldiers a chance to survive. Today, Miller’s family, teammates, and friends gathered at the Pentagon alongside the U.S. military’s most-senior leaders to honor their fallen son’s life, heroism and courage.
During Army Secretary John M. McHugh’s remarks at the ceremony, he described Miller’s interests in gymnastics, basketball, history, languages and the military as he was growing up. Later, as a young Green Beret, Miller brought his characteristic intensity, enthusiasm, leadership and dedication to the job, the Army secretary said.
“He was funny, generous, passionate and determined,” McHugh said of Miller. “He was someone we would all have liked to know … a life that while too short, was a life of extraordinary measure.”
In an interview before this week’s ceremonies, Staff Sgt. Nicholas McGarry said during that conversation, Miller had told him he wanted to be remembered for how he had lived, and not how he died. As the two single guys on the team, McGarry recalled that he and Miller hung out together, and rode mountain bikes after work.
“He was incredibly joyful – a motivated, energetic person,” McGarry said of his departed friend. “Just a good friend to have around, because he always wanted to do something. He was always in a good mood –- kind of a playful spirit, I guess.”
ROBERT JAMES MILLER
Staff Sergeant, US Army; Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne)
Born: 14 October 1983, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Died: 25 January 2008, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
Citation: Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism while serving as the weapons sergeant in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force 33, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on January 25th, 2008.
While conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol through the Gowardesh Valley, Staff Sergeant Miller and his small element of U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers engaged a force of 15 to 20 insurgents occupying prepared fighting positions. Staff Sergeant Miller initiated the assault by engaging the enemy positions with his vehicle’s turret-mounted Mk 19 40-millimeter automatic grenade launcher, while simultaneously providing detailed descriptions of the enemy positions to his command, enabling effective, accurate close air support.
Following the engagement, Staff Sergeant Miller led a small squad forward to conduct a battle damage assessment. As the group neared the small, steep, narrow valley that the enemy had inhabited, a large, well-coordinated insurgent force initiated a near ambush, assaulting from elevated positions with ample cover.
Exposed and with little available cover, the patrol was totally vulnerable to enemy rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire.
As a point man, Staff Sergeant Miller was at the front of the patrol, cut off from supporting elements and less than 20 meters from enemy forces. Nonetheless, with total disregard for his own safety, he called for his men to quickly move back to cover positions as he charged the enemy over exposed ground and under overwhelming enemy fire in order to provide protective fire for his team.
While maneuvering to engage the enemy, Staff Sergeant Miller was shot in the upper torso. Ignoring the wound, he continued to push the fight. Moving to draw fire from over 100 enemy fighters upon himself, he then again charged forward through an open area in order to allow his teammates to safely reach cover.
After killing at least 10 insurgents, wounding dozens more and repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire while moving from position to position, Staff Sergeant Miller was mortally wounded by enemy fire. His extraordinary valor ultimately saved the lives of seven members of his own team and 15 Afghan National Army soldiers.
Staff Sergeant Miller’s heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty and at the cost of his own life are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.