A testing point

The President of the United States of America, authorized by act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded, in the name of the Congress, the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.

Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of heroism while serving as the weapons sergeant in Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force 33, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on January 25th, 2008.

While conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol through the Gowardesh Valley, Staff Sergeant Miller and his small element of U.S. and Afghan National Army soldiers engaged a force of 15 to 20 insurgents occupying prepared fighting positions. Staff Sergeant Miller initiated the assault by engaging the enemy positions with his vehicle’s turret-mounted Mk 19 40-millimeter automatic grenade launcher, while simultaneously providing detailed descriptions of the enemy positions to his command, enabling effective, accurate close air support.

Following the engagement, Staff Sergeant Miller led a small squad forward to conduct a battle damage assessment. As the group neared the small, steep, narrow valley that the enemy had inhabited, a large, well-coordinated insurgent force initiated a near ambush, assaulting from elevated positions with ample cover.

Exposed and with little available cover, the patrol was totally vulnerable to enemy rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire.

As a point man, Staff Sergeant Miller was at the front of the patrol, cut off from supporting elements and less than 20 meters from enemy forces. Nonetheless, with total disregard for his own safety, he called for his men to quickly move back to cover positions as he charged the enemy over exposed ground and under overwhelming enemy fire in order to provide protective fire for his team.

While maneuvering to engage the enemy, Staff Sergeant Miller was shot in the upper torso. Ignoring the wound, he continued to push the fight. Moving to draw fire from over 100 enemy fighters upon himself, he then again charged forward through an open area in order to allow his teammates to safely reach cover.

After killing at least 10 insurgents, wounding dozens more and repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire while moving from position to position, Staff Sergeant Miller was mortally wounded by enemy fire. His extraordinary valor ultimately saved the lives of seven members of his own team and 15 Afghan National Army soldiers.

Staff Sergeant Miller’s heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty and at the cost of his own life are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army.

The starkly matter of fact way in which Medal of Honor citations are written has always been more emotionally stirring to me than any amount of florid prose, riddled with imagery and metaphor. The citation for Staff Sergeant Miller was read yesterday afternoon at a presentation at the White House, following a brief speech by President Obama. Despite the 8 years that the war in Afghanistan has been going on, SSgt Miller is only the third recipient of the Medal of Honor for service there. A fourth recipient has been announced, the first living recipient since the Vietnam War.

Regardless of your thoughts on the propriety of the war, the strategy and tactics being employed, or anything else, it is important to take time to think about the men and women who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other lesser known areas of occasional violence, and to honor their sacrifices. Not the sacrifices they make for our country, but the sacrifices they make for the other men and women they are serving with, the men and women they are living and working with, both American and international, and the sacrifices their families make each time that one of them has to leave home.