Robert James Miller
U.S. Army / Medal of Honor
Green Beret draws enemy fire to save his fellow soldiers
On Jan. 25, 2008, three months into his second deployment to Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Rob Miller and others in his Green Beret unit partnered with soldiers from the Afghan National Army on a night patrol of a key strategic sector in mountainous Kunar Province, along the border with Pakistan. Taliban and insurgent forces had been gaining momentum in the territory and high value enemy targets were thought to be operating nearby.
As the convoy of two dozen soldiers made its way through a snowy valley, it twice stopped to detonate boulders placed on the road — a sign they were being set up for an ambush. Miller, the only American to speak the Afghans’ native language of Pashto, directed them to dismount and join him in an overwatch unit that traveled alongside the convoy.
An unmanned aerial drone detected a group of about 15 to 20 enemy fighters congregated just ahead. Miller immediately mounted his vehicle’s turret and began firing on them with its mounted grenade launcher, while calling in lethal air strikes from supporting aircraft.
After this initial contact, Captain Ryan Cusick directed Miller to lead a patrol of Afghan soldiers to investigate the enemy position. Upon reaching the mouth of a steep and narrow valley, they encountered an insurgent who leapt from behind a boulder, firing wildly and shouting, “Allah Akbar!”
Though Miller immediately shot the insurgent, the contact initiated an attack from more than 100 enemy fighters, well-entrenched and hiding above. Fire erupted from every direction, forcing the Afghan soldiers to retreat toward the supporting Americans. From his position in the front, Miller called in contact reports to Cusick, then charged the enemy in an attempt to provide cover for his retreating Afghan counterparts.
Despite their attempts to withdraw, the units were pinned down near the choke point, unable to engage the fight. Realizing this, Miller continued his charge, effectively eliminating the insurgents’ right flank and drawing their fire away from his comrades below.
After his men were relieved from the onslaught, Miller attempted to take cover but was soon shot in the side. Unit commander Cusick also was shot, in the chest, and was evacuated. Yet Miller, alone and seriously wounded, continued forward, crawling on his chest and pressing his attack while directing supporting fire on the enemy position for nearly a half hour until he ran out of ammunition.
Sometime during the fight, Miller was hit again. Despite attempts by his teammates to save him, his wounds proved mortal, and he died on the battlefield. He was 24 years old.
With the help of a quick reaction force, the detachment was able to recover Miller’s body, returning him home where he was buried in All Faiths Memorial Park in Casselberry, Florida.
According to the Army, Miller saved the lives of seven Green Berets and 15 Afghan soldiers. He is credited with killing 16 enemy fighters and wounded more than 30.
On Oct. 6, 2010, President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to MIller, presenting it to his parents Phil and Maureen Milller.
“It has been said that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point,” Obama said at a White House ceremony. “The courage (Miller) displayed that day reflects every virtue that defined his life.”
Cusick survived, and later reflected on his fellow soldier’s motivations for pressing the attack.
“I think he wanted to provide that extra fire power for his buddies to get out of the kill zone,” he said, still unsure of what caused Miller to act as he did.
Still, Cusick was sure of one thing: “He moved forward, and we moved back.”
Tim Holbert is program director of the American Veterans Center in Arlington, Va.
Robert James Miller
U.S. Army / Medal of Honor
Died: January 25, 2008, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
Staff Sergeant Robert James Miller, 24, was born in Harrisburg, PA, growing up in Wheaton, IL, the second oldest of eight children.
He was proud of his family’s service in the military, dating back to the American Revolution. His two grandfathers, Robert Miller and James Morgan (both of whom he was named after), were World War II veterans. Originally wanted to apply to the Naval Academy, but realized he would not be accepted due to being color blind. Resolve to serve in the military was strengthened after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Miller enlisted as a Special Forces trainee on August 14, 2003. Received his Special Forces Tab and was promoted to Sergeant on September 30, 2005. Deployed to Afghanistan from August 2006 to March 2007 and again in 2007 for the tour in which this action took place.
He served two tours to Afghanistan: August, 2006 to March, 2007 and October 2007 to January 25, 2008
In addition to Medal of Honor and Purple Hearts, Special Skill decorations include Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab and Parachutist Badge
Afghanistan / Kunar Province