DRUMMER FEATURE MAY 24, 2015
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Former Buffalo Legion Commander Pat Miller...
Over 50 years of service and military tributes
By Ed DuBois
A fixture among American Legion officers at the annual Memorial Day ceremony in Buffalo, former Sheriff's Deputy Pat Miller helps honor those who served the USA in the military. His own service to his country took place during the Vietnam War.
He is quick to point out that he was not directly involved with combat in Vietnam (and he has great respect for those who were). His service in Vietnam involved carrying out clerical duties at bases in the central highlands. He was on duty in places such as the Bien Hoa Air Base, an old Marine base called Phu Bia and Camp Evans near Hue. Although he was not involved with the fighting, there was potential harm just being there.
He recalled being transferred to a division that went to liberate Khe Sanh. The base where he worked was mortared and rocketed once a week, he said.
His worksite was near an ammo dump, an airport with Cobra and Huey helicopters, the division operations center, and a fuel dump.
The office workers were fond of saying, "Long, short or wide, it would land on us," meaning they could be hit if the enemy missed their intended targets.
"The ammo dump was hit on Ho Chi Minh's birthday in 1968. Ammo was cooking off for a couple of days," Miller said. "Once in a while, an artillery shell or something in there would shoot straight up in the air."
Shells sounded like trains
That was the year of the Tet Offensive, which involved many attacks in various places by North Vietnam leader Ho Chi Minh's forces.
Miller remembers the USS Missouri, one of the largest battleships ever constructed, was offshore firing its 16-inch guns at land targets.
"At night during the A Shau Valley campaign, shells from the 16-inch guns of the Missouri sounded like a railroad train passing overhead. The guns fired three or four hours a night for about two weeks," Miller recalled.
From Benson High School
Serving on the other side of the world was quite an experience for a young man about a year out of Benson High School in Minnesota. He was the oldest of ten children.
He studied a year at the community college in Willmar and then joined the Army.
"I enlisted because I was going to be drafted. The secretary of the draft board was a friend of my mom," Miller explained.
He enlisted on Oct. 9, 1966 at the Federal Building in Minneapolis.
After completing his basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., he went to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. for clerical school classes. However, the classes were full, and he was placed with a clerical unit for the post. His duties involved passing on mail to soldiers who had gone ahead from the post for their next assignments.
'Placed on the levee'
In six months, he received orders to serve in Vietnam. The orders arrived in a message box at the office. "Placed on the levee" was a term used by the soldiers in reference to such orders. The phrase is likely related to a French term, "levée en masse," which can be used to describe a mass mobilization of soldiers.
Miller was able to spend 30 days at home before reporting to the army terminal in Oakland, Calif. He was sent to Bien Hoa Air Base, and then he was assigned to service with the 1st Air Cavalry Division. His work involved printing orders. The office where he worked had two A.B. Dick mimeograph machines.
Twelve on, twelve off
He was in Vietnam one year, from October 1967 to October 1968.
The printing unit included about 25 soldiers. When Miller was sent to Camp Evans, he was among 9 printing staff members at that location. He remembers his work schedule was "12 hours on, 12 hours off, 7 days a week."
I worked the night shift for a long time. I would get off at 7 a.m.," Miller said. "I slept to 1 or 2 p.m. There was a PX (post exchange or store) at An Khe, and I could go to a Salvation Army site. But the EM (Enlisted Men's) Club (which included a bar) did not open until after I went to work."
Nonetheless, he was able to enjoy a drink when he wanted.
The public at home in America often heard about drug use in Vietnam, but Miller said he did not see much of that happening. Marijuana was used, but it was not widespread, at least from what he observed.
Entered law enforcement
When his year in Vietnam was finished, Miller went home. He mentioned he served for a time at the army terminal in Oakland before finishing his term in the military.
Once he was back in Minnesota, he returned to school in Willmar and earned an associate's degree in Law Enforcement. His first job was with the Paynesville Police Department, and after a year and a half, he was hired in Wright County by Sheriff Darrell Wolff. He was a patrol deputy, and he also worked in the office, which included some time as a radio dispatcher. Toward the end of his 15 years with the Wright County Sheriff's Office, he worked in warrants and transports, he said.
Married almost 50 years
Miller will be married to his wife, Marilyn, 50 years in 2017. Their wedding took place about a year after he was in the Army. They had met in high school during Senior Skip Day.
Marilyn has worked as a cook and waitress. For about 20 years, she served as the county jail cook supervisor.
Marilyn and Pat have a son, Patrick, who lives in Big Lake and has been a supervisor with Fingerhut's customer service division in St. Cloud for many years.
As a member of the American Legion Post in Buffalo, Pat has served as the Legion commander. The big wall of officer photos at the Legion Club indicates he served as the commander from 2004 to 2006.
He said he has been active with the post in Buffalo 25 years, since 1990.
There is little doubt he will once again join other Legion officers as they conduct the 2015 Memorial Day ceremony on Monday, May 25. Out of honor and respect, he has become a fixture at the event.
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