Continuing with our Medal of Honor series, which honors our Medal of Honor recipients, is the story about Robert J. Miller.
Miller, who served in the Army Special Forces, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously on Oct. 6, 2010 for his courageous actions on Jan. 25, 2008, in Afghanistan. He was the third service member to receive the Medal of Honor during the war in Afghanistan.
Miller was born in 1983 in Harrisburg, Pa. and grew up in Wheaton, Ill. After high school, Miller attended one year of college at the University of Iowa before enlisting in the Army in 2003. He was the second of eight children to Phil and Maureen Miller.
Miller was an active child, constantly involved in a variety of activities — sports, band and Boy Scouts.
“Rob was full of energy,” Miller’s father remarked. “He enjoyed being very active. He enjoyed challenging people a little bit.”
He especially challenged himself, a habit which began when Miller started gymnastics as a child. He continued the sport through high school, and he was extremely dedicated to it, training until his coach had to kick him out at night. He also instructed children. And, because of his patience and leadership, he was entrusted with teaching gymnastics to several kids with autism.
Miller’s passion bled into his studies — not necessarily his grades, but his desire to learn about various facets of the world and its cultures. He was particularly drawn to the military, since both of his grandfathers were World War II veterans.
“Rob always wanted to be a soldier,” Miller’s mother said. “It’s something that runs in our family, and I think another important factor was Rob’s sense of appreciation for the freedom and opportunity we have in this country.”
Miller enlisted in the Army as a special forces candidate on Aug. 14, 2003, and he earned his green beret in 2005. He was then assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg.
Miller deployed to Afghanistan for the first time in 2006 and earned two Army Commendation Medals with Valor for his courage in the face of the enemy.
His dedication to service and his curiosity about other cultures endured during his deployments.
“He took is job 100 percent seriously.” Master Sgt. James Lodyga, a teammate, said. “From what I saw, he loved what he did,”
And, one of the things he did was mix with the locals and establish connections that helped the mission.
“His ability for language was off the meter,” another comrade, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Saragosa, said, commenting on Miller’s ease in foreign environments. “(He was) very capable of communicating with the locals, and they loved him for it.”
The day when Miller’s teammates escorted his remains to the empty cargo bay of the aircraft, which was to fly them to the United States, his former commander, Capt. John Bishop of Special Operations Task Force 33, recounted how selfless and dedicated Miller was.
“He was always quick to volunteer and never thought it should be any other way,” he said. “On numerous occasions when the detachment was faced with a difficult task, Robby would just stand up and say, ‘I got this one, I’ll do it, send me.'”
Medal of Honor Action
On Jan. 25, 2008, Miller and his small element of U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers conducted a combat reconnaissance patrol through the Gowardesh Valley in Konar Province, Afghanistan. During the patrol they encountered and engaged an entrenched force of 15 to 20 insurgents, easily defeating them.
After the skirmish, Miller led a squad to assess battle damage. The coast initially seemed clear, but as the group approached the steep and narrow valley that the insurgents had occupied, a large, well-coordinated insurgent force initiated an attack, assaulting the US and ANA soldiers from elevated positions with ample cover. Because the American and ANA soldiers were in the open and below the insurgents, they were completely vulnerable to the attack.
Miller was in front leading the patrol, and so when the attack came he was cut off from support and less than 20 yards from enemy fighters.
Right away, without any concern for his own safety, Miller ordered his men to take cover as he charged the insurgents in the open to draw the overwhelming gunfire away from his team. As he engaged the enemy, he was shot in the upper torso.
The wound didn’t stop Miller, though. Ignoring the blood and pain, he continued the charge with over 100 enemy weapons firing at him. As he dashed from a position of cover to another, Miller killed 10 insurgents and wounded dozens more. Eventually, he was mortally wounded by enemy gunfire.
His bravery and heroics allowed his men and the ANA soldiers to get to safety. His extraordinary valor ultimately saved the lives of seven members of his own team and 15 Afghanistan National Army soldiers.