Barnesville Middle School students will hear about patriotism and service on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11. Although they may not realize it, their speaker, Rev. Gene Miller, has dedicated his life to serving our country through the military and serving God and his community in many, many ways.
Gene enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 16 at the tail end of World War II, just as the Germans were surrendering.
The youngest of 10 children raised by their father in Kalamazoo, Mich., Gene was one of seven sons who served in World War II. His oldest brother was a Marine fighter plane pilot in 1940, who retired to Texas . Two of his brothers served in the Navy as gunmen on aircraft carriers and another was an Allied military governor in the Army, setting up the law in occupied villages.
His father and one of his uncles served in World War I.
"You could say we came from a military family," Miller said.
Gene served in the First Marine Division in reconnaissance, attached to the 11th Naval District UDT (now known as the Navy Seals). Their home base was in San Diego.
Miller said the underwater demolition work was done at night, so that the ships could navigate the waters and reach the beaches in safety.
After serving in the Marine Corps, he joined the Army. By the age of 19, Miller had traveled around the world twice, serving in Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, Germany, Korea and Austria.
He worked in operations and intelligence in France and was in charge of the war room, war plans and evacuation plans for civilians.
He trained new recruits at Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Riley, Kansas and Louisiana. He taught hand to hand combat for 18 months.
There is much of Miller's military service experience that he would rather not recall.
In Korea, he was a member of the long range patrol who went behind enemy lines to set up communications and was also part of a mortar platoon.
Gene served as an advisor for a short period of time in Vietnam after the French pulled out.
He retired from the military in March of 1967 at the age of 37. During his military career, he was decorated 15 times. He said there have been many changes in the military over the years.
He met his wife Anne in 1959 at Camp Perry. Gene was in charge of the beach there where many tourists came to swim.
Anne is a Freeport native and retired from 32 years of teaching in 1987. They have two daughters, Susan and Cynthia; eight grand-children and are expecting their eleventh great-grand-child in March.
After the military, Gene went on to serve the communities in which he lived in a variety of ways.
He taught scout craft in the greater Cleveland area. He worked as a carpenter and has volunteered his time to build houses throughout the area.
He retired from the state of Ohio in 1985, serving first as assistant superintendent of Harrison County and then as an inspector of highways and bridges.
He owned a grocery store, butcher shop and frozen meat locker in Cadliz. Miller taught junior ROTC at East High School for five years.
He was the mayor of Freeport for four years. He taught little league softball and baseball for many years.
Gene became the minister of the Main Street United Methodist Church in Barnesville 1980 and "retired" in 1998. Since then, he has served as the "interim" pastor of the Lloydsville and Morristown United Methodist Churches. The Millers purchased a home in Barnesville when they retired.
The active 80-year-old bowls three nights a week and volunteers at Barnesville Hospital every week. Gene is a member of the Barnesville VFW, Legion, Eagles, Elks and Kiwanis club. He serves on the board of the Barnesville Hutton Memorial Library.
Gene , who has been called upon to speak on Veteran's Day and Memorial Day many times over the years, said he would be speaking to students about sacrifice and appreciation for the men and women who are currently serving in the military and about the importance of a strong military.
He said people are "quick to forget" what others have done for them.
"In the 1940's patriotism was high," Miller recalled. "We should be proud of those serving (today)."