Steve Miller, American Hero, Dies At 86
I wrote a short piece a week or so ago in response to Tony Snow’s ridiculous comparison of the Iraq war and the Battle of the Bulge in WWll. In that story I mentioned my friend Steve who landed at Normandy and fought through France, Belgium and into Germany.
Steve Miller died this past Saturday the 24th of June 2006.
I lost a friend, his family lost a great treasure and America lost a piece of her soul.
Steve was born in Celina Ohio on September 17, 1919. He grew up in that small town Ohio farming community and came to Dayton as a young man in the thirties seeking work in the local plants which were already gearing up the arsenal of democracy for the gathering storm in Europe and the Pacific.
I’m working from my memories of many conversations with Steve at the local VFW and the details are sketchy but I believe he joined the Army a couple of years before the outbreak of war and trained in Texas where he met Ike, his future bride and the woman he loved and treasured until and beyond her death a few years ago.
When D Day arrived Steve was a Sergeant and at the ripe old age of twenty six one of the elder statesmen of his outfit, the 173rd Field Artillery in which he commanded “Old Glory” a “Long Tom,” a 155mm howitzer atop a Sherman tank one of the most effective weapons in the American arsenal in Europe. Over the last ten years he shared with me many pictures of “Old Glory” and its young crew, his buddies, with whom he shared the next seven months of unbelievable hardship and trauma, of pain and sadness, of filth and degradation and death. Of war.
As he described it the 173rd was a “bastard outfit” pieced together from parts of others and throughout the campaign assigned at various times to the command of many different divisions. Several years ago I tracked his outfit using order of battle documents from the US Army and found it phenomenal how many times the 173rd changed commands and locations, was scurried here and there in support of various units in the insane and desperate scramble of total war.
From DDay through St Lo and the fighting around Caen across France and into the bitterly cold and merciless horror of the Ardennes, St Vith and Malmedy and Bastogne this man and so many others of his generation were tested in ways that most people will never be able to imagine. Through the forests of Belgium and across the Rhine into Germany he fought for his life and those of his crew until the second of his tanks was shot out from under him and he received wounds which would keep him in military hospitals for most of the next year.
I have a picture on my computer of Steve recieving the Silver Star from Lt General Walt Gerow in January of 1945 just weeks before the engagement which ended his war.
No Rambo here, no John Wayne or Chuck Norris, just a small tough unassuming Ohio kid. No boastful, chest thumping, high fiving movie hero. A young faithful, honest, determined American kid.
Just a man who did his duty as he saw it and gave every bit of service that he was capable of to his comrades in arms, to “Ike” his bride of more than a half century, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and to those who were fortunate enough to know and call him friend.
We will bury Steve Miller today in a grave at the Dayton National Cemetery in the company of nearly thirty thousand of his brothers, where his wife Ike has waited these last several years. I know that they will rejoice at being joined together again and forever. I am glad for them both.
I will miss the light of amusement and friendship in his eyes and the quiet noble dignity that was central to who he was as a man.
I have lost a friend, his family has lost a great treasure and America has lost a piece of her soul.
Here’s to you Steve.