For Sgt. Joseph Miller, two decades of private sector life could not keep him from joining the army after the September 11th attacks. Miller last served in the Navy in the 1970s is currently serving with the 1st Theater Sustainment Command at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, as an Essential Personnel Services Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge.
Miller was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1958. He lived in New Jersey most of his life until he was 10 years old, then his family moved to Florida, where he lived for several years before he joined the service. “Like any teenage kid, when I got out of high school I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, so I decided I was going in the service,” Miller said. “I went into the Navy in 1975 and stayed there for six years of active-duty. Then I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the electronics engineering field. I went to college and eventually ended up 20 years later working for General Motors and that’s when 9/11 hit. I remember one of my people came in and said ‘You’ve got to go to the conference room and watch it on the TV.’ So I watched it and I thought, ‘That ain’t right.’ At the time I was 42 years old, so I was kind of old to join the military for active-duty. I went to the National Guard and they took me in.
“I was active in the National Guard working at bases around the area; I’ve been to Kosovo, Kuwait, and Iraq and I’ve been doing this ever since.”
Miller says he was obviously happy with his first stint in the Navy. “I worked in the Navy as a sonar technician. I did that for six years before I started working in the private sector. And then when I came back into the service I came back in the Army and I started out as a radio operator. My unit already had a slew of radio operators so I changed over to combat engineer for a while. Then I went into the administrative field and now my primary duty is as an M1-A1 Abrams Tank Commander.”
Miller just turned 53-years-old at the end of July. He talked about the physical challenges that faced him as a man in his forties going back into the armed forces. “It was tough at first you,” Miller said. “You have to pass your physical training and your physical fitness tests, but you persevere, you get through, and you build yourself up; then you start passing it. If you want something bad enough you will do anything it takes to get it. Everything came pretty easy when I was young, you have that invincibility-mindset, but nowadays to accomplish most anything it takes more effort.”
Miller says his Native American heritage has never really come into play in his military career. “My great-grandmother was Blackfoot Indian, but I try not to tell everybody that I’m a Native American,” Miller said. “I just tell everyone I’m an American, because a lot of people try to use race as a crutch nowadays, I try to get away from that and use my God-given talents. But I do have Native American on my dog tags. When I’m asked about my religion I’m a Christian, but I say I’m Native American traditional religions, which is Christian and some of the beliefs my grandmother passed on to me. I’m a Christian, I believe in Christianity, and my Native American heritage.”
Miller has a wife and two children, in Tennessee, and he’s looking forward to spending time with them once he retires from the service. “I’m real close to retiring, I’ll be out of here in four years and three months,” Miller said. “Once I’m retired I want to take it easy, I don’t want to work the rest of my life, and I don’t think I’ll have to, but the way the economy is going who knows what will happen. Most of us want to work until we are done and then take the easy route, but it’s almost impossible to retire nowadays.”
But regardless of what happens, on every September 11th Miller plans on remembering what happened in 2001. “I’ll be home on the next anniversary and I plan on making sure that everyone around me knows what 9/11 was all about. It’s not about political ambitions, it’s not even about religious differences; it’s about evil guys killing almost 3,000 people for no reason whatsoever.”