Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

James L Miller

Yakima, Washington

March 29, 2010

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
21 Army Spc

4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division

Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington

 Killed in Dashat, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.

Welcoming Home Our Hero, Click photo below:

April 7, 2010

They Came To Honor Our Hero, Click photo below

April 10, 2010

For Memorial Service Snapshots, Click photo below:

April 10, 2010

For Memorial Ceremony at Ft. Lewis, Click photo below:

April 14, 2010

From KIMA TV 29 kimatv.com 04/07/10:

A Hero's Return
By Robin Wojtanik
Watch the story
YAKIMA - KIMA Action News carried live coverage of the return of PFC James Miller's remains to the Yakima Valley following his death in Afghanistan.

His casket was escorted by Yakima Police and troopers from the WA State Patrol from 24th to Nob Hill and on to I-82 before arriving at the Valley Hills Funeral Home in Zillah.

His funeral service is Saturday at 11a.m. at the Nazarene Church in Zillah. A full military service will be at Fort Lewis on April 14th at 3 p.m. His burial will be private.

PFC Miller leaves behind a wife and a toddler. 

From KIMA TV 29 kimatv.com 04/08/10:

Family And Friends See Fallen Soldier Come Home

By Peter Bukowski
Watch the story
YAKIMA -- Family and friends of PFC James Miller were shocked to see the greeting they received. "You couldn't help but cry because all those people waving their flags and it was just amazing," said Miller's aunt, Mary Van DeGraaf.

"Seeing the local communities of Zillah and Yakima come out to show their respect is an extremely humbling experience," Lt. Morgan Sullivan explained after participating in the military-style procession with Miller's body.

Strangers lined the streets. Even Yakima Valley Community College dismissed classes for students to attend and show their support.

"I know the ultimate sacrifice he's done for us and I thank him for it," Joe Heddleston said. He'd lined up to pay his respect.

"Specialist Miller was part of our family and it is a task, it takes an emotional toll on us, but it's quite an honor to be able to come here," Sullivan said.

People remembered this was not just about burying a soldier, but celebrating his life.

"I hope they can remember James's laughter, the good times they had with him, hopefully that helps them get through this tough time."

Bringing him home will help immortalize those memories for James's wife, Katie, and their young daughter, Peyton.

"James will always be here and she can come visit wherever she goes," Van DeGraaf said.

Long after the funeral and burial this Saturday, the memory of a brother, husband, father and friend will live on. 

From KIMA TV 29 kimatv.com 04/10/10:

A Hero's Farewell

By Ryan Simms
Watch the story
ZILLAH -- A community says goodbye to a fallen soldier.

James Miller was so many things to so many people. But in a life of fishing and fanatic hockey playing, fatherhood trumped everything else. It makes his mom proud.

"Words can't describe how he felt about his daughter," says Kim Miller. "She was his (entire) life and now she has to be without him."

Peyton Miller may be without her dad, but she's in store for a wave of memories about a man described as "selfless, happy, and good."

More than 200 people attended Miller's funeral. In addition, a whole community showed up to give their support.

"It's one of the only ways I can say thank you," one supporter says.

In a sea of red, white and blue, fellow veterans honored their fallen comrade, and fellow citizens paid their respects . As Miller was transported to his final resting place, patriotism was all around.

"Even though they didn't know him, they supported what he's done," Kim Miller tells Action News. "(They know) he's our hero"

"A hero" who may be gone, but won't be forgotten. 

From KNDO/KNDU TV kndu.com 04/10/10:

Spc. James Miller laid to rest
Posted: Apr 10, 2010 6:29 PM PDT Updated: Apr 10, 2010 6:29 PM PDT

ZILLAH--A local soldier killed in action during Operation Enduring Freedom is laid to rest.

For one day at least, Zillah changed its colors from black and orange to red, white and blue.

The outpouring of support was for Specialist James Miller. He was killed in action March 29 in Dashat, Afghanistan.

"I thought it was my patriotic duty to come down here and show respect for a fallen soldier who gave his life for this country," Betty Ramerman said.

Hundreds of flags flapped in the wind outside Nazarene Church for Miller, the first Yakima Valley soldier killed in the conflict in Afghanistan.

The 21-year-old leaves behind his wife, parents and one-year-old daughter, Peyton.

"They're grieving right now and they need support," Herbert Horn said. "They need to know that their son didn't die for nothing."

The support was hard to miss. Mourners waving flags lined the streets outside the Zillah Cemetery, both to honor Miller and potentially protect his family.

Members of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church announced earlier this week they would picket Saturday's proceedings. That news brought the Patriot Guard to the Lower Valley.

"They started showing up and protesting at military funerals," Larry Griffith, who has attended more than 100 military funerals as part of the Patriot Guard. "There's just no way that that kind of action can be tolerated."

But, as the day went on, no protesters showed up. Just more Stars and Stripes, letting James Miller's loved ones know that the people present think Miller is a hero.

Miller was promoted from Private First Class to Specialist after his death.

On Wednesday, April 14, he will be honored with a full military service at Fort Lewis in Tacoma.

From KVEW TV 32 kvewtv.com 04/10/10:

Hundreds Say Farewell to Fallen Soldier

By David Mance. Published Saturday, April 10th, 2010
<p>Army Specialist James Miller</p>

Army Specialist James Miller

This weekend hundreds said farewell to the yakima soldier recently killed in afghanistan.
Among the family, friends and supporters were some special guests there to keep the peace, just in case.
Outside the Nazarene church in Zillah Saturday, hundreds of people honored U.S. Army Specialist James Miller, and his family, for miller giving his life for his country.
"I'm just glad that I could be a part of this, and show my respects," says Kathy Hiner of Zillah.
"Anytime you're putting your life on the line for your country, that the country needs to support you, and the community does," says Barbara Wenda of Yakima.
"I'm here to show support for the Miller family, and the sacrifice they gave our country," says Lisa Fairbairn of Sunnyside.
Miller died nearly two weeks ago in Afghanistan, killed by a roadside bomb.
Lisa Fairbairn showed up for his memorial service.
Miller's tragic death hits close to home for Fairbairn.
Her nephew died in Afghanistan on the 4th of July last year.
"Let them know that there's other families that know what they're going through, and if we can be helpful in any way, we certainly want to be," says Fairbairn.
Other families feel the same way, even if a military death hasn't touched them.
"We have a 17 year old son and if it happened to us, we would certainly appreciate this kind of support," says Walt Wenda of Yakima.
On this day of honoring James Miller, supporters also worried about protestors from Kansas trying to use his funeral to make a political statement.
Vietnam War veterans who make up the Patriot Guard Riders and other motorcycle groups showed up, to protect the family.
"It's a way for a lot of us older veterans to fulfill a promise that never again would an American veteran be dishonored or disrespected," says Patriot Guard Rider Jim Dickson.
That threat never came to be, allowing the family to mourn, and the community to pay their respects, undisturbed.
At the time of his death, Miller held the rank of Private First Class.
The army says he's since been promoted to Army Specialist James Miller.

From The Yakima Herald yakima-harold.com 04/10/10:

Final respects for a fallen soldier
By MARK MOREY
Yakima Herald-Republic 

ZILLAH, Wash. — James Miller, Ryan Hill and Junior Urekar loved each other like brothers.

Hill and Urekar met Miller during high school in Alaska and by 2007 all three had moved to Yakima, where Miller eventually decided to enlist in the Army to support his family and his country.

The two close friends considered Miller part of their own families, making his March 29 death in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan all the closer to their hearts.

The 21-year-old Miller, who was posthumously promoted from private first class to specialist, was buried Saturday in Zillah following a memorial service that brought together more than 200 mourners. Outside the Zillah Church of the Nazarene, about 300 civilian supporters lined the street with American flags.

Hundreds more lined the procession route on Wednesday while Miller’s body was escorted from the Yakima airport to a Zillah funeral home.

Miller’s family thanked the community for the outpouring of support.

“Hopefully this doesn’t happen again, but if it does, we will be participating, out there waving our flag,” said Mary Van de Graff, the aunt of Katie Miller, Miller’s widow.

Hill and Urekar recalled Friday that Miller was the guy who loved hockey but couldn’t catch a baseball. He constantly overslept, requiring a personal wake-up visit even to make an afternoon class at Yakima Valley Community College. He attended the mechanic’s program there in 2007.

For reasons that will remain unclear, somebody sucker-punched him at the Valley Mall, his friends said. But the resulting black eye may have helped endear him to his future wife, whose family lives in Granger. The two met when he walked into the college rec room to tell his buddies about the mysterious encounter at the mall.

They later married in Las Vegas and had a daughter named Peyton, who will be 2 in September. When Miller learned Peyton was on the way, he decided on military service. Miller was born in Washington, D.C., while his father, Nick Miller of Chugiak, Alaska, was stationed there in the Army.

“He didn’t fight just for his country. He fought for his family, for his kid to grow up with everything he had as a kid,” Hill said.

During the memorial service, the Rev. Greg Jochen of Liberty United Methodist Church in Granger quoted the Bible passage in which Jesus says that those who die for others have the greatest love for their fellow man.

“He was willing to risk his life so that you and I could have freedom,” Jochen said.

The service included a slide show of Miller with family members and military friends, as well as remarks by Brig. Gen. Peter Mayer of Lewis-McChord, where Miller’s 5th Stryker Brigade was based.

Miller enlisted in August 2008. He had about a month to be around his daughter before he attended basic training and then went to Afghanistan. He was scheduled to return in July after a year overseas.

His mother, Kim Miller of Eagle Lake, Minn., said he was considering re-enlisting when the deployment ended. He wanted to be stationed in Alaska, where he grew up.

“He wanted his little girl to experience the life that he had,” she said.

Miller communicated often with his wife, friends and family via Myspace and the Skype videophone service.

Hill and Urekar said he had felt safe during his deployment, commenting during his mid-tour leave last year that he had only seen tracer rounds so far.

“He thought he was going to come back,” Urekar said.

Miller and Hill spent Miller’s leave fishing, one of Miller’s favorite pastimes along with four-wheeling in his truck and playing video games.

Hill baby-sat Peyton to give Miller and his wife time together. In recent years, Katie Miller has lived in Yelm and Dupont, Wash., to be near the military base.

“He was a family man. He would do anything for those two,” Hill said.

Van de Graff echoed those comments, saying that Miller wanted to use his military service to establish himself in a future career field so that he could support his wife and daughter.

“He was so young, but very mature — a good head on the shoulders — and I think he knew where he was going,” she said.

Residents of the Yakima Valley took time out of their own lives to remember his sacrifice.

Jerome “Fes” Fessler was among about 600 students and staff from Perry Technical Institute who lined the streets near the Yakima airport to watch the hearse pass by Wednesday. Perry Tech president Christine Cote released students to attend based on requests from students and a staff member.

Fessler, a former Navy Seabee, said he was heartbroken to think that Miller’s daughter would grow up not knowing him. But he was proud to see others who supported the soldier’s sacrifice.

“That is someone’s father, that is someone’s husband, that is someone’s son. But most of all, that is a hero, that is a man who was doing his job for our country and he lost his life,” Fessler said.

In today’s media-flooded world, news of other deaths can seem removed from daily life, said Leo Wright of Selah, a retired Navy petty officer second class and now the senior vice commander of the Yakima post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“It doesn’t really hit home until it’s one of our local Valley boys that’s been killed,” said Wright, who saluted on Nob Hill Boulevard as the casket passed by Wednesday.

Miller is the 11th soldier or Marine with ties to the Yakima Valley to die in the United States’ current Middle East campaigns. He is the first to die in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, more than 100 flags held by supporters fluttered in the stiff breeze along the street leading to the church. Most of those outside the church were part of the Patriot Guard Riders, motorcycle riders who support the troops, or part of Operation Thank You, another civilian support organization for military members.

Walt and Barbara Wenda of Yakima aren’t affiliated with either group, but they wanted to pay their respects. Barbara Wenda made a sign that said, “Thank you, Miller family.”

Barbara Wenda said that when a local family loses a relative in combat, “it’s a loss for all of us.

“We just wanted to show our support and thank them.”


• Herald-Republic reporter Adriana Janovich contributed to this report. 

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