Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A stray bullet had blown a gruesome, 3-inch-wide hole through Miller’s right forearm – just when the truck he was in broke down. After half scrambling, half sliding out of the vehicle, Miller found himself lying in the road with his wounded arm hanging at his side, telling himself everything would be all right, and that the medic was on his way.

But the shooting continued, and everything was not all right.

As the rest of the convoy pushed onward, several members of Miller’s team continued to fire on the attackers on the left side of the road. From his new vantage point Miller could see there was trouble on the right side as well.

"I saw three guys come out of the bushes on the right side of the road and I yelled out, but everyone was still focused on the left," Miller said. "I grabbed my SAW, wedged the stock under my arm and rested the barrel on my knee and opened fire on the three guys. I don’t know how I did it, but I hit those three and a couple more, and then there’s a big gap where I don’t really remember much."

Still under heavy fire, Miller got a field dressing for his arm from a medic, grabbed a bag of extra ammunition from his truck and barely made it into the back of a cargo truck. He later sustained additional injuries to his arm and chest from shrapnel that ricocheted off nearby equipment.

"They told me in the hospital that it took three guys to convince me to put my weapon down, and that apparently I had shot more than 30 enemy insurgents after I’d been hit," Miller said. "I guess I just went into auto pilot."

Later reports confirmed that the 29-member team was under attack by more than 200 enemy soldiers.

Miller is scheduled to receive his Purple Heart in Bangor on June 12, and has also been recommended for a Silver Star. But medals and recognition are still far from his mind.

"I wasn’t concerned with my injuries," Miller said. "I was concerned with performing my job and making sure there were no more injuries in the convoy."

The welfare of his unit still weighs heavy on Miller’s mind, and he expects he will return to Iraq when his leave is over.

"I plan to spend as much time as possible with my kids while I’m here," Miller said. "I’ll be heading out to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. in a month for rehab.

After that, it’s more than likely I’ll request to go back – I just can’t see sitting around over here while the rest of the unit is still in harm’s way."

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