CHICAGO (CBS) — He has been described as a quiet professional who never sought praise.
And now, more than a decade after his death, a fallen soldier is honored as a hero by his community.
Robert Miller was a Wheaton native who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2010.
This Memorial Day, CBS 2’s Jackie Kostek shares his story through the people who knew him, loved him, and will never stop telling his story.
Robert James Miller had just started his senior year at Wheaton North High School when planes hit the towers. Seven years later, he died an American hero on a battlefield in Afghanistan. He was 24 years old.
“One of his teammates surely spoke for all of them when he said of Rob: ‘He wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for his ultimate sacrifice.'”
In 2010, Miller was awarded the nation’s highest medal of valor, the Medal of Honor.
“We honor the life and service of Master Sergeant Robert J Miller, whose heroic actions on January 25, 2008 epitomize the courageous spirit of the men and women of our Armed Forces,” said then-President Barack Obama.
The heroics of that night detailed in a five page quote. It’s a story that Miller’s close friend Bobby Kaye knows by heart.
“The night of the 24th, his team, his AOD, was given the task of going to Konar province,” said veteran Bobby Kaye, a close friend of Rob Miller. “Once the ambush happened, his team was broken while he stayed and fought.”
“As he kept pushing, he got hit under the chest plate and kept fighting,” Kaye said.
“After 15 years of saying that, talking about that story, reading the citation, the affidavits, being there at the Medal of Honor ceremony in DC in 2010, naming my first child after him, keeping up with his family, I still hurt.” Kaye said.
In the 15 years since Miller gave his life, Kaye has kept his memory alive. Kaye is not alone. At Wheaton North High School, daily reminders of the heroism of someone who walked the halls not long ago.
Kyle Padera teaches English at Wheaton North. He was a freshman on the gymnastics team when Kaye and Miller were seniors, captains who took the team to state.
“The more we can bring people in and show they were real. It helps a lot. The connection I had with him. It was tough. He was tough on me,” Padera said.
Padera shares memories of Miller as a way to humanize a young man remembered throughout the school. Now head gymnastics coach Greg Gebhardt was then an assistant.
“Gymnastics is tough and Rob started freshman year. He was a state finalist. That doesn’t happen without a lot of dedication. I think that story transcends. Not necessarily what he did in sparring that was tremendously heroic. But the ideals he held,” Gebhardt said .
Remembered and honored as the human being that he was. On this Memorial Day, and every day.
“I just can’t understand why it happened, but it still makes you understand that you’re free, that you’re available, that you’re walking in a free country because of guys like him. You really are. It’s not cliché at all,” Kaye said.
The full heroism of what Miller did on January 25, 2008 is detailed here.