Alexander J. Miller
Specialist, United States Army
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 576-09
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Specialist Alexander J. Miller, 21, of Clermont, Florida, died July 31, 2010, in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum. New York.
For more information related to this release,
the media may contact the Fort Drum public affairs office at (315) 772-8286.
CLERMONT, Florida - On desolate and dangerous battlefields in Afghanistan, Americans are still paying for freedom with their lives. Back home, that high cost is also borne by family and friends.
In Clermont Sunday afternoon, loved ones gathered to say good-bye and pay tribute to U.S. Army Specialist Alexander J. Miller, who was killed July 31, 2010, while serving in Afghanistan.
At a memorial service held at First United Methodist Church, the mood was somber, but amid the grief, another emotion permeated the gathering.
"Admiration," said childhood friend Robert Rosada. "Everyone is obviously sad because we lost a really close friend. But he was someone that definitely has changed all of our lives. Days like this, I think, we should honor him and be happy he's in a better place."
"Something like this being done for our friend means a lot," said friend Chris Rinus. "He was strong the whole time and he died doing something that he really loved to do. I'm sure he would feel honored that something like this was being put on for him."
Along both sides of the street in front of the church, that honor was evident by the American flags being held by members of the Patriot Guard Riders. Most of them likely didn't know Miller personally, but they didn't need to. All they needed to know was that he held an ideal more highly than he did himself.
"He's a hero," says Carl Swofford of the Patriot Guard Riders. "These soldiers are the true heroes. It's not the athletes and the movie stars, it's these people who are putting their lives on the line every day for us. We owe them so much."
And for those who gave what Abraham Lincoln called "the last full measure of devotion," it's a debt that will remain unpaid. Keeping alive the principles he died defending will be a way for those who were closest to him to make sure that debt isn't forgotten, friends said.
"I'm very proud of what he did," said friend Geoff Harris. "Going and sacrificing his time and ultimately his life to go and defend what this country believes in."
That was a fact that gave strength to those
fighting to hold back their tears. Men like Miller's former hockey coach
Rich Brown, who, even though it was breaking, still left room in his heart
for celebrating the fact Alex gave his life for something worth defending,
"My whole heart," he said, "my whole heart."
As Clermont Mayor Hal Turville said, following the funeral at First United Methodist Church-Clermont, "Until today, that war was far, far away."
Miller was a graduate of East Ridge High School. His funeral was attended by about 500, including an honor guard from the Lake County Sheriff's Office and 97 members of the Patriot Guard Riders, who rode in on 66 bikes from Panama City, Sarasota, DeLand and numerous other points in the state.
"This is our third ride in two weeks," ride captain Carl Swofford said, "and we have another one in the works for Homestead."
The military presence at the funeral included Army Maj. Gen. Robert E. Livingston, Jr., who is attached to CENTCOM at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. Miller had been awarded two medals posthumously, the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. During the funeral, the Livingston presented the medals to Miller's mother, Sue Miller of Clermont.
At various points in the ceremony and in conversation during the reception that followed, Miller was consistently portrayed as a young man who was bright, dependable and always smiling, with a talent for making the people around him smile.
Earl Shaver was Miller's roller hockey coach and delivered the eulogy. Speaking afterward, Shaver said "I was Alex and Rich's coach for a good three years. (Rich is Alex's brother). I'd do it all again. They made me feel special as a coach … (Alex) was a bright kid. He always had a smile. After a game, win or lose, he'd take his shirt off and skate around the rink, waving it in the air. That was Alex. He was a good kid. I'm going to miss him dearly.
Miller's funeral included full military honors, held outside in the church courtyard, complete with a flag-folding ceremony, a 21-gun salute and taps by a live trumpeter. As the air rose from the courtyard, heated by the midday sun, it formed the beginnings of a little cloud overhead. As reported by one guest at the funeral, Charlene Forth of Clermont, a white bird climbed with the air, even as Miller's mother was receiving the flag that had draped her son's casket.
Miller was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), based in Fort Drum, N.Y.
Specialist Miller was laid to rest with full military honors in the Columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery.
MILLER, ALEXANDER J
Posted: 10 August 2010 Updated: 19 August 2010 Updated: 20 December 2011
Photos By Eileen Horan, August 2010