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updated: 7/6/2017 10:54 PM

COD unveils memorial to Wheaton soldier at his namesake building

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  • Video: Life, service and spirit

  • Maureen Miller stands for the national anthem at a ceremony Thursday to name the College of DuPage's Homeland Security Education Center on the Glen Ellyn campus after her son, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, a Wheaton native who was killed in Afghanistan.

      Maureen Miller stands for the national anthem at a ceremony Thursday to name the College of DuPage's Homeland Security Education Center on the Glen Ellyn campus after her son, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, a Wheaton native who was killed in Afghanistan.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Retired Navy Capt. Thomas G. Kelley gives the keynote address during the College of DuPage's dedication ceremony for the Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller Homeland Security Education Center.

      Retired Navy Capt. Thomas G. Kelley gives the keynote address during the College of DuPage's dedication ceremony for the Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller Homeland Security Education Center.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • College of DuPage officially named the Homeland Security Education Center Thursday after U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, a Medal of Honor recipient who grew up in Wheaton.

      College of DuPage officially named the Homeland Security Education Center Thursday after U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, a Medal of Honor recipient who grew up in Wheaton.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • A dedication ceremony Thursday named the College of DuPage Homeland Security Education Center after U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, a Medal of Honor recipient.

    A dedication ceremony Thursday named the College of DuPage Homeland Security Education Center after U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, a Medal of Honor recipient.
    Courtesy of Bobby Kaye

  • U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller learned the native language of Pashto and led Afghan forces into battle.

    U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller learned the native language of Pashto and led Afghan forces into battle.
    Courtesy of Bobby Kaye

  • "It is our deepest hope that the Robert J. Miller Homeland Security Education Center and the memorials inside can serve as a public tribute, as well as provide comfort to the families and loved ones and the friends as a testament that these fallen men and women died while doing what they love, sacrificing themselves so that others may live in peace, freedom, security and prosperity," College of DuPage President Ann Rondeau said.

      "It is our deepest hope that the Robert J. Miller Homeland Security Education Center and the memorials inside can serve as a public tribute, as well as provide comfort to the families and loved ones and the friends as a testament that these fallen men and women died while doing what they love, sacrificing themselves so that others may live in peace, freedom, security and prosperity," College of DuPage President Ann Rondeau said.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • "It's humbling and kind of overwhelming in a way," Phil Miller, with his wife Maureen, said of their son's memorial at the College of DuPage's Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller Homeland Security Education Center.

      "It's humbling and kind of overwhelming in a way," Phil Miller, with his wife Maureen, said of their son's memorial at the College of DuPage's Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller Homeland Security Education Center.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Members of the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District, Darien-Woodridge Fire District and Woodridge Police Department present the colors during the ceremony Thursday.

      Members of the Lisle-Woodridge Fire District, Darien-Woodridge Fire District and Woodridge Police Department present the colors during the ceremony Thursday.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Command Sgt. Major Bruce Holmes of the U.S. Army 3rd Special Forces Group addresses the crowd at the College of DuPage.

      Command Sgt. Major Bruce Holmes of the U.S. Army 3rd Special Forces Group addresses the crowd at the College of DuPage.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • College of DuPage officials officially named the Homeland Security Education Center after Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, a Wheaton native killed in Afghanistan. Inside the building is a memorial to Miller which features facts about his life.

      College of DuPage officials officially named the Homeland Security Education Center after Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, a Wheaton native killed in Afghanistan. Inside the building is a memorial to Miller which features facts about his life.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

At the end of a long hallway in his namesake building at the College of DuPage, a new memorial to Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller humanizes a war hero.

In many ways, he had a typical suburban childhood. The memorial shows pictures of a smiling Miller with a bowl haircut in his Boy Scout uniform and then as a co-captain of the Wheaton North High School gymnastics team on the parallel bars.

"These are extraordinary things that are done by ordinary people, and our son was just a normal, all-American boy," his father, Phil Miller, said at a ceremony Thursday to name the college's Homeland Security Education Center after his son.

Here's the extraordinary part: Miller saved the lives of his fellow soldiers and sacrificed his own after insurgents ambushed his team in Afghanistan nearly a decade ago.

Former President Barack Obama posthumously presented Miller's Medal of Honor to his mother and father in 2010. The 24-year-old was the first Special Forces soldier who fought in Afghanistan to receive the country's highest military award.

The memorial at the college's Robert J. Miller Homeland Security Education Center recounts his heroics in that battle early Jan. 25, 2008.

But at the ceremony Thursday, his parents were reminded of a young Miller who was fascinated with military history and who "didn't shy away from doing something just because it was hard."

The Millers, now Florida residents, said they hope that sense of duty inspires the students who train to become firefighters and police at the center on the Glen Ellyn campus.

It's the "perfect place" to pay tribute to Miller's legacy, retired U.S. Navy Capt. and Congressional Medal of Honor Society President Thomas Kelley told the gathering.

"He put others before himself," Kelley said. "That's why this building is an appropriate spot to honor Staff Sgt. Miller in a space where tomorrow's heroes learn and train, so that they can be inspired to find the courage within themselves to act without hesitation and to never forget how much is at stake."

The newest class of cadets at the college's Suburban Law Enforcement Academy heard that message directly in a crowd of about 300 people at the ceremony.

"What enables ordinary young men and women like Rob to perform extraordinary deeds? Clearly his mom and dad, Maureen and Philip, instilled in him the values of integrity, honor, patriotism and service before self," Kelley said. "That's how Rob lived his life up until that very last day."

On that day, Miller "instinctively and without regard for his personal safety" pushed forward alone to provide cover for his team of Special Forces and Afghan troops who fell under heavy enemy fire in a valley near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the memorial notes.

Miller was able to radio information about the position of insurgents and drew their fire away from soldiers.

He was shot in his torso but continued fighting until he was mortally wounded. The rest of the team -- seven soldiers and 15 Afghan troops -- survived.

"This is somebody who grew up in this community who touched a lot of people's lives," said Bobby Kaye, Miller's teammate and close friend on a cooperative squad of gymnasts from Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South high schools.

Along the center's first-floor hallway, COD also installed a memorial for alumni who have died in the line of the duty as first responders or in the military. The space recognizes those professions with a display of badges from departments around the suburbs.

"It is fitting that as your community college we recognize today the many individuals who selflessly choose to serve our communities," COD Board Chairwoman Deanne Mazzochi told the gathering.

Miller decided to serve in 2003 after one year studying at the University of Iowa.

"He rose to the occasion when he was called to," his father said.

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