Wheaton native to get Medal of Honor

October 4, 2010 (WHEATON, Ill.)

Sergeant Robert Miller lost his life serving in Afghanistan in 2008. He died while saving the lives of others in his unit.

It is the highest military honor awarded in this country. It is given by the president to a soldier who risks his or her own life above and beyond the call of duty during combat.

In Rob Miller's case, he charged into an ambush in Afghanistan, drawing fire away from his fellow soldiers, saving their lives while killing or wounding nearly four dozen enemy soldiers in early 2008.

He was always driven, full of energy, a leader. That's what those who knew Rob Miller remember most. A talented athlete, he was captain of the powerhouse boy's gymnastic team at Wheaton North High School his junior and senior years.

And when he decided after high school to enter the military, becoming a Green Beret, Miller's parents were proud and supportive. He was the youngest in his squad at 24 years old. And, when he was killed while saving the lives of the rest of his squad, it came as no surprise.

"It's overwhelming, actually. I'm sure that at the moment we'll just be overwhelmed with everything that's happening. Obviously we'll be proud of our son and he's accomplished," said Phil Miller, father.

"Knowing his character, it didn't surprise us the way he acted the way he did," said Maureen Miller, mother.

Near his elementary school in Wheaton, Robert Miller Memorial Plaza honors all military from St. Michael Parish. Miller and his family moved to this western suburb when he was 6.

His former gymnastics coach remembers him as a perfectionist who put in more time at the gym and worked than anyone else.

Chad Downie also teaches English at Wheaton North. He says Miller was also a good student who gave his all to whatever he focused on.

"It is not surprising that Rob calculated how he could serve his men the best, and it's not surprising that he did things without concern for himself," Downie said.

Downie plans to be part of a small group of miller's family and friends at the White House Wednesday for the Medal of Honor ceremony. He says it will be bittersweet, a great honor, but almost always presented to a soldier who sacrificed his own life in the process.

Miller's parents say they are very proud and they share the honor with the others in Miller's company.

"We always feel an emptiness that he's gone. I've known many parents who have lost children, and I know that years and years later it still hurts," said Maureen Miller. "And I know that it will always be like that, and it's just something that we learn to live with."

Wednesday in Wheaton at St. Michael Church, where Miller attended, there will be a mass in his honor followed by a ceremony in the plaza outside that bears his name. That ceremony will coincide with the medal ceremony in Washington. It will include remarks by Congressman Peter Roskam and others, and it is open to the public.

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