Life is a series of ups and downs

By: 
ALICE NEAL
News-Argus Staff

My dad made his last trip to Montana in 2012 when he was 94 years old.  He loved to sit on the porch and enjoy the view of the mountains.

Last New Year’s Eve I lost one of the most important men in my life - my dad, James Dee Miller, aka “Uncle Dee.” He was born on April 28, 1918. He was 98 years old. 

We planned to go back to Indiana for his 99th birthday, planned to make it a real celebration. Instead, on Jan. 6, we celebrated his  long life. 

Dad wasn’t famous; he didn’t discover a planet or come up with an amazing invention. In fact, he had only an eighth-grade education. During the Depression, he rode the interurban car to Indianapolis to sell pickles for a nickel to help provide for the family. Despite all that, he did something that was truly a sacrifice: he served his country during World War II.

He was drafted into the Army and began his military career with basic training in Alabama. After training, he was sent by train to the west coast and then across the Pacific in late winter to Japan. They arrived in Nagasaki just after the bombing of both Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Dad told us that they had to wait aboard ship three days for the harbor to be cleared before their ship could enter.

Dad never told us – his daughters – much about his time in Japan. I learned of the things he went through by eavesdropping while he talked to my husband and son. Dad drove our son, Adam, home to Montana after Adam finished training at Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Adam’s first duty station was in Yokosuka, Japan. I suppose it was natural for Dad to want to share with his grandson some things from his own experience in that country.

What I heard made me realize how strong my dad had been. He had to leave his wife and infant son to go halfway across the world to do his duty. Dad was a cook’s helper. He also performed duties for which he had not been prepared -- things like going into villages, rounding up the people and taking any form of protection they had. Things like liberating soldiers who had been captured and tortured. Things like recovering the bodies of those men who had died in underground prisons.

There was no recognition of anything like PTSD in those days. Soldiers came home, locked away the things they had seen and were required to do, found new jobs and supported their families. 

And that’s exactly what my dad did – until the day he talked with my husband and son.

No, my dad will never be famous. Oh, but James Dee Miller was so much more.

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