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Old 06-10-2008, 04:08 AM
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BGen Gerald Miller, USMC, (Ret), to lead Flag Day Parade

Well-decorated Marine to lead parade
Post-Crescent staff writer June 9, 2008

"You cannot exaggerate about the Marines. They are convinced to the point of arrogance that they are the most ferocious fighters on earth and the amusing thing about it is that they are." 1st Marine Division chaplain Kevin Keaney, Korean War

In the heat of combat, soldiers aren't fighting for the American flag or even for their country.

"You are there to protect your buddy, and your buddy is there to protect you," said Brig. Gen. Gerald Miller of Combined Locks, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam. "It is a family of people who are doing something together, and the more abstract ideas we might see back home aren't necessarily focused on by the troops. It's survival, doing your job, and taking care of your buddies."

Miller will serve as honorary parade marshal of the 58th annual Appleton Flag Day Parade, which begins at 2 p.m. Saturday and pays tribute to the United States Marine Corps. Marine Capt. Tony Mitchell of De Pere will carry the flag.

"The Appleton Flag Day Parade is always the second Saturday in June," parade committee member Don Burich said. "It is neat that this year's parade will occur on June 14th, which is national Flag Day."

That a small-town farm boy from Calumet County who rose through the military ranks to become a distinguished and decorated Marine brigadier general is serving as parade marshal makes it even more special, Burich said.

"Gerry Miller has lived the military version of the American dream," he said.

For Miller, 65, the flag is the symbol of what soldiers fight for their values, their buddies, their homes, their families and the American way of life.

"The United States military and the American flag are inseparable," he said.

Born in 1942, the Brillion native graduated in 1960 from Brillion High School and received a bachelor's degree in political science in 1964 from Marquette University. After graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. When he was deployed to Vietnam in 1965, only his platoon sergeant was older than Miller at 23 years.

He served as infantry platoon commander, with 48 marines in his charge who were younger than he was but just as determined.

"These were young kids, 18 and 19 years old," Miller said. "And they were really solid young people. That was the time before the draft, before the Vietnam War and you had people volunteering just like you do now to be in the Marines. People were there and wanted to do a job and do it well."

Real heroes don't go into war to lay down their life, he said. It is a consequence of serving in the military.

Miller was wounded on his first tour of duty a couple miles south of Da Nang.

After recuperating, he next served as a public affairs officer with the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Chicago, until he reported in 1967 for flight training at the Naval Training Command in Pensacola, Fla., where he earned the designation of naval aviator, and was promoted in 1967 to captain.

The following year, he served as a pilot and squadron adjutant at the Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, Calif. From 1969 to 1970, he was an assistant operations officer and the aviation safety officer for his second tour in Vietnam.

Miller last served as the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant of the Marine Corps and Director, Judge Advocate Division at Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C.

"America," said Miller, who has witnessed it firsthand, "is a country with a big heart."

So were his parents, the late Charles and Lucina Miller, who lived on the family farm north of Brillion. The same year Miller was deployed to Vietnam, his parents took in the town's first foreign exchange student, Bui Quang Thach, who was a native of South Vietnam.

In 1975 when the North Vietnamese communists took over South Vietnam, Thach was put into a reeducation camp to correct his attitude. While there, his wife, Tho, gave birth to a son they named Vinh.

A year or so later, Thach and his family became part of the mass exodus of a couple hundred thousand Vietnamese refugees dubbed the boat people.

"I was escaping the country, and I was living in Indonesia," said Thach, who contacted Miller's parents who arranged for his family to come to Wisconsin, put them up in Brillion and got them jobs.

Today they live in Kimberly and continue to be part of the Miller family. In recent years, Stoney (Thach's nickname) has Americanized his name to "Anthony Bui," using Charles' middle name.

"It's amazing how our lives kind of looped back together," said Miller, who isn't the only Marine in Stoney's adopted family.

Brothers Charles of Combined Locks and Richard of Darboy both served, as well as Miller's son, John, 41, now a teacher at Johnston Elementary School in Appleton.

"You would never know Gerry is an American military hero because when you meet him he is just like your next-door neighbor," Burich said. "The Fox Valley area should be proud of a guy like Gerry and what he has done to help our country. We are lucky to have him involved in this year's parade."

Parade info, pics, etc., here:
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