PBS&J's Philip Miller to accept Medal of Honor on behalf of his son Robert who died in Afghan war
Philip D Miller, assoc VP tolls technology at PBS&J, and family, will be at the White House October 6 when President Obama is due to formally award their son the Medal of Honor for gallantry in battle in Afghanistan - gallantry that cost him his life. The Medal of Honor is the United States' highest award for valor in war.
Robert J Miller (1983-2008) was a US Army Special Forces staff sergeant on a reconnaissance patrol with about eight other US Special Forces and 15 Afghan National Army soldiers against Taliban forces in the heavily contested Gowardesh Valley in Nuristan province. The fighting raged for several hours during the night of January 24, January 25.
It consisted of two separate engagements.
First during a reconnaissance patrol they spotted 15 Taliban and engaged them with small arms fire, while calling in air support. That engagement apparently over, the US Special Forces/Afghan moved into apparently vacated enemy position to conduct a battle damage assessment.
Stage 2 - ambush
They walked into a Taliban ambush and it was immediately apparent the enemy force was much larger than the 15 they'd seen initially.
They were subjected to heavy machine gun fire and rocket propelled grenades from multiple concealed positions.
Miller was "walking point" - in the lead - and only 15m (50ft) from the Taliban.
Miller fired with his M249 squad automatic weapon from the hip and threw hand grenades into a Taliban position giving his comrades time to find cover, but at the price of suffering a serious gunshot wound.
The officer in charge, a captain was also hit.
A fierce close quarters infantry firefight then raged. During most of this time the wounded Staff Sergeant Miller led the small US/Afghan detachment.
The US-Afghan force was outnumbered by Taliban fighters and the fighting was now at such close quarters airpower couldn't be deployed.
Miller was the US soldier in the unit most fluent in the Afghan language Pashto and with the most rapport with the Afghan soldiers, so he was crucial to rallying and coordinating the fight, reports say.
Moving around, he exposed himself to fire and toward the end of the engagement, about 25 minutes after the first wound he took a fatal hit, dying on the battlefield.
The whole fight went on for about three hours and some 20,000 rounds of ammunition were shot. (NOTE: we initially reported that Miller fought wounded for three hours. We're now told that three hours was the length of the whole battle. We've been promised an official narrative of the battle and Miller's role and will post a link to that when it is released. REVISION 2010/09/23 17:00)
In a tribute to Miller special forces Lieutenant Colonel Ashley said when he visited the unit the next day all the soldiers could talk about was "the heroic actions" of their fallen comrade, SSG Miller: "To a man, SSG Miller’s (comrades) spoke of his heroism that day and (how) his actions (contributed) to saving their lives."
Ashley went on: “SSG Robby Miller was a unique soldier and above all a warrior. He was a motivated and charismatic NCO with a gift for languages. Robby was the type of soldier that saw the hardships before him and stepped up to the challenge. He understood the hazards of combat and the risks of his service to our nation. He willingly bore the burden of the soldier. He was the epitome of the SF (Special Forces) soldier. He was a warrior among warriors…"
"The motto of our Regiment is 'Free the Oppressed.' Special Forces soldiers have long lived by this creed and today we all carry this torch. Robby sacrificed his life doing just this very thing – bringing freedom to the oppressed people of Afghanistan."
His father says his son Robert was very conscious of the moral dimension of the struggle against the Islamists. He had done work among refugees and heard many stories of the barbarism of the foe. He enlisted a year after the attacks of 9/11/2001.
The White House announcement says:
"On October 6, President Barack Obama will award Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Staff Sergeant Miller will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions in Afghanistan on January 25, 2008. He displayed immeasurable courage and uncommon valor - eventually sacrificing his own life to save the lives of his (comrades) and 15 Afghanistan National Army soldiers. Staff Sergeant Miller’s parents, Phil and Maureen Miller will join the President at the White House to commemorate their son’s selfless service and sacrifice."
Medal of Honor
The announcement contains the following on the Medal of Honor:
"THE MEDAL OF HONOR: The Medal of Honor is awarded to a member of the Armed Forces who distinguishes themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while:
• engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
• engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
• serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
"The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit."
Also from the White House announcement:
PERSONAL BACKGROUND: Robert Miller was born on October 14, 1983, in Harrisburg, PA. He graduated from Wheaton North High School, Wheaton IL.
Shortly after his family moved to Oviedo, Florida, he enlisted in the United States Army as a Special Forces candidate in August 2003.
He attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benning, Georgia and later became a Green Beret in 2005.
Staff Sergeant Miller served as a weapons sergeant in Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), which is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
His military decorations include: Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal with "V" Device, Army Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NATO Medal, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab and Parachute Badge.
He is survived by his parents, Phil and Maureen Miller; brothers Thomas, Martin and Edward; and sisters Joanna, Mary, Therese and Patricia." Ends White House material.
Great Silk Road: Phil Miller tells us the Gowardesh Valley where Rob fought so heroically, and died, is the location of one of the main routes of the legendary Great Silk Road that linked the great European trading city of Venice with China and India from Roman times through the medieval era.
Hopefully in more peaceful times it will be developed into a modern tollroad linking the great peoples and economies of Asia to the Mediterranean.
TERMINOLOGY: some of the original prose unfortunately referred to Miller's "teammates" as if they were playing some kind of sports game together. We've substituted "comrades" - the proper term for soldiers who fight together. Warriors are "comrades in arms" engaged in the serious national business of war - editor.
ADDITION: a reader tells us that the term 'teammates' is not a sporting allusion as we suggest but a colloquial reference to the basic 12-soldier Special Forces unit - formally an ODA after the mouthful term Operational Detachment Alpha. We reported from the Vietnam War including going with SF units. The heaviest action we saw was with a South Vietnamese SF company of six ODAs located in the Parrot's Beak in Cambodia. We never heard the word 'team' used for an ODA or 'teammates' used of soldiers, but perhaps that has changed.
A US soldier in Iraq (a son actually) writes: "I see team, teammate, teamwork, etc used in many military memos and slogans and whatnot, but I tend to agree that comrade is better. The notion of camaraderie is peculiar to the military, and it comes from the same root as comrade. People in the military talk a lot about being brothers, band of brothers, use 'brother' as a term of address, but we're not a fraternity."
TOLLROADSnews 2010-09-12 REVISION 2010-09-23