Here’s one measure of how brutal the Vietnam War was for Army infantrymen: Of 159 soldiers Roy Miller graduated with from Officer Candidate School, “79 were killed in Vietnam,” he said.
Miller, who was commissioned as an Army infantry officer but later earned his wings to fly gunship helicopters as a master Army aviator during that war, doesn’t forget those colleagues, or others he served with there or in this country, where other friends were killed by aviation crashes.
“One of my statements is going to be, when I go up and stand up there, and I start talking, ‘I’m not standing alone,’” said Miller, a 1964 Fairfield High School graduate and a real-estate agent. “I’ve got a lot of men that have passed away that were with me through thick and thin. And as far as I’m concerned, standing up there, they’re still with me.”
After Monday’s Memorial Day Parade in Hamilton, Miller will speak during the ceremonies at Greenwood Cemetery that follow. The parade starts 10 a.m. on Neilan Boulevard, following last year’s parade route to Greenwood Cemetery where there will be a ceremony beginning approximately 11:15 a.m. at 1602 Greenwood Ave.
Miller served 31 years, eight of them active-duty, the rest with Army National Guards in Ohio and Indiana. The real-estate agent of 31 years also helped start the Butler County Sheriff’s aviation department in 1995, and spent 20 years flying helicopters with them as a volunteer special deputy.
Here’s how thankless Vietnam service was: In December of 1994, while serving in the Ohio National Guard on his way back from Columbus, his Class A uniform was hanging in his truck window. A man at a gas station shook his hand, and said, “Thank you.”
“For what?” Miller asked.
“For your service,” the man answered.
“That was the first time that anybody said ‘thank you’ or anything, was in 1994,” Miller said in an interview this week.
He was commissioned as an infantry officer, but then went to flight school and earned his wings as a pilot. But because he had experience programming computers before he was in the military, he was put in a position where he analyzed data that helped aviation operations.
Miller created a system of pinpointing where aircraft had been shot from, and placed the information on a map showing the coordinates of where the enemy fire had come from.
“The enemy could not resist shooting at a helicopter,” so there were plenty of data showing shots being fired. Using colored pins that represented different days of the week on a map of Vietnam, his operation could see enemy troop movements, because based on their gunshots.
“We could see movement going across the map,” he said, noting he received a bronze star for that innovation. When he received the star, a superior told him that work would save more lives than he could do as a pilot. Flying helicopters was “exciting most of the time, and different. You never knew what was going to happen next,” he said.
The parade’s marshal will be Bill Harvey, a U.S. Navy veteran and past commander of American Legion Post 138.
Harvey, who served four years during the Vietnam era, but not in the war, aboard the USS Mills, a radar picket ship in places like New Zealand; near Antarctica; Cuba; Europe; and Maryland, said
He was a 2nd Class Petty Officer and electronics technician. His ship served “arduous duty” because of severe weather near the South Pole.
Harvey, who graduated from Fairfield High School in 1964 and became an electrician after his service, working in that field before retiring in 2002, said he thinks about “the good times you had” with the men he served with.
He also thinks “we’ve let our military decline, at least with the hardware, and the number of ships is down dramatically.” Aircraft are being scrapped for parts for other parts, and ships have collided with other ships because of lack of training, with soldiers and sailors being worked without sufficient breaks, he said.
“It’s bad enough when you’re single, but if you’re gone, and not seeing your family for a year, year-and-a-half of more, it’s bad, especially when you’re doing it a lot,” Harvey said.
“I’d just like for people to remember our veterans,” Harvey said. “It’s easy, I think, for the citizens to forget about our men and women who are serving now, because it used to be everyone knew somebody in the service. Now, it’s almost an exception that you personally know someone who’s serving.”
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