Miller was in the thick of just about every major war and conflict from the late 1980s until his 2008 retirementBy BY MARK H. STOWERS FOR THE E-T,
The outdoors loving high school kid from New Mexico traveled the world as a member of the Army Special Forces keeping the rest of us safe and free.
Inverness resident, Kevin Miller retired from the military in 2008 after 24 years serving his country and sacrificing a few body parts.
In August of 2008 he settled in the Delta after taking some classes at Mississippi Delta Community College. Miller ran a grain delivery truck for a few years before fully retiring.
His Army life, which preceded his quiet Delta existence, kept him in harm’s way in some of the nation’s more recent wars and conflicts.
From helping capture Manuel Noriega to seeking peace in Kosovo and serving in both Gulf Wars with time in both Afghanistan and Iraq, Miller has witnessed the worst war has to offer, he’s helped rescue fellow soldiers all while keeping the US flag flying high.
These days the 53-year old spends his time hunting and fishing across the country and following his fiancé’s daughter’s college softball career.
For Miller, a third-generation military man, it all began after high school when he joined the Army.
“My dad was a Navy Pilot, and I just wanted to join the military and go see the world. There’s a whole world out there to go see and the easiest way to do it is through the military. Let them send you places,” Miller said.
He first worked in communications and then went to Airborne School before being shipped off to Italy. Stationed out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, "the Home of the Airborne and Special Operations," where approximately 57,000 military personnel, 11,000 civilian employees and 23,000 family members make up one of the largest military complexes in the world, Miller would “see the world.”
His unit was always on standby to be deployed anywhere in the world trouble was brewing within 24 hours. Trained in SERE – a high-risk training conducted at the U.S. Army Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape School at Fort Rucker gives the soldiers the necessary training to survive in isolation, making them a less vulnerable target to the enemy.
“They beat you around a little bit and put you in a POW camp for two weeks,” he said. “We had also had some evasive training with vehicles and various shooting schools for all kinds of weapons.”
Miller has more than 100 jumps as a paratrooper and that training fully made up his mind that he was on the right path.
“You figure you’re going to be scared. Everybody was scared but it was a rush. You’re on an airplane going 150, 160 to 170 miles per hour. I knew right then that’s what I wanted to do.”
His “brothers” run, jump, swim and march toward danger and conflict, usually first and to the most dangerous outposts.
“Special Forces guys are called ‘The Quiet Professionals.’ They don’t go bragging and boasting about what they do. What they do is 99 percent behind the scenes,” Miller said. “You’ve got a job to do and you go take care of business. There’s only a few selected people who do what I do for a career.”
He jumped into Panama where Noriega was wreaking havoc and “took care of that business. I’ll never forget it. I was getting ready to come home for Christmas and the next thing you know, I’m getting in a C-141 and flying to Panama. Ruined that Christmas.”
Six months later, he was sent to Iraq for the first Gulf War, way before the heavy military showed up with tanks and such.
“The invasion was on the second and I was in theater in Saudi Arabia on the fourth of August with satellite radio communication,” he said. “The other guys from Germany and brigades and divisions didn’t start getting there till December and January with all of their tanks. It takes a while to develop the logistics for all of that stuff. But we are the rapid deployment and always ready to go. We can be anywhere in the world in 24 hours.”
His missions included securing airstrips and much more dangerous tasks to help set up and further the overall mission.
“We would stay there for 11 months and then we come home for 11 months but we’re not ‘home.’ We have to go to schools, go to training but we key leaders would have to go back to Afghanistan and meet with our counterparts who had relieved us and we might stay a week or three weeks and figure out equipment changes. Most conventional units might go for a year but don’t go back for four years.”
During his time back home, Miller would put in his Army work and then go to school.
“When I was at home, I sacrificed a lot. I went to school at night and acquired a few college degrees to put myself ahead of my peers with promotions or to be set up when I got out of the Army,” he said. “I’ve got two associates, a Bachelor’s of Science, a Master’s of Science and an MBA degree from the University of Maryland.”
Miller doesn’t detail his injuries but has had his share of them including his shoulder and the fingers on his right hand. But none of them slow him down as he hunts using his ring finger as a trigger finger.
When he retired, he came to Mississippi and farmed and attended MDCC and even reupped with the National Guard and then went back on active duty and was stationed out of Fort Knox.
Miller has also “patrolled the DMZ (demilitarized zone in South Korea) and I’ve stepped on the North Korean side of the table where they do the peace talks. I’ve done a lot and I’ve had a great and prosperous career in the military.”
He also was part of the rescue mission of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell that Mark Wahlberg portrayed in “Lone Survivor.”
“We were searching and searching and searching and once we got word of where he was, we went to the village and extracted him. It was a three-week mission,” Miller said.
During his time in the Army, one non-mission stood out over almost everything.
While stationed in Germany, Miller and some friends traveled to the beaches of Normandy, France and camped out for four days. The World War II holy ground was eye-opening for today’s soldier in seeing what his previous Army generations had sacrificed and endured.
“We drove across France and camped out on Omaha Beach for four days. We did all the D-Day stuff on our own. We went to Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Pointe du Hoc – seeing the bunkers and the holes in the ground (as big as his house) from when they bombed everything – those are still there. You can go stand in them. The German bunkers are still there.”
But his greatest part of being in the Army is the life-long friends he made and continues to see on hunting trips.
“I still keep in touch and hang out with a lot of them. I go to their house or they come here. Those are friends of a lifetime. We’ve been to war and we’re brothers and sisters. We’ve been on the same dirt,” Miller said. “You can never turn away those kinds of people.”
Miller fully endorses a military career for anyone considering the path.
“It’s a great way of life – benefits, travel and see the world. It’s a great career even if you don’t stay in 20 years. You can get a good skill and people are wanting to hire veterans because they know you have a great work ethic,” he said.
The sacrifices made to keep the US protected and free are what he’s most proud of.
“A preacher said one time at church that there is only one man willing to give his life for you. And I said, ‘that’s not true. There’s two people. Jesus gave his life for your sins. A military serviceman will give his life for your freedom.’ A military service member doesn’t know who you are but he’s willing to die for you.”