Obama Awards Posthumous Medal of Honor to Green Beret

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2010 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma paid trib­ute today to a young U.S. Army Spe­cial Forces sergeant who gave up his life for his fel­low sol­diers.

Dur­ing a White House cer­e­mo­ny, the pres­i­dent award­ed a posthu­mous Medal of Hon­or rec­og­niz­ing Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller’s 2008 actions in Afghanistan. Miller’s par­ents, Phil and Mau­reen Miller, accept­ed the award.

“We are a nation of more than 300 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. Of these, less than 1 per­cent wears the uni­form of our armed ser­vices. And of these, just a small frac­tion has earned the badges of our spe­cial oper­a­tions forces,” the pres­i­dent said. “In the finest mil­i­tary the world has ever known, these war­riors are the best of the best. In an era that prizes celebri­ty and sta­tus, they are qui­et pro­fes­sion­als — nev­er seek­ing the spot­light. In a time of war, they have borne a bur­den far beyond their small num­bers.”

The Medal of Hon­or is the high­est mil­i­tary award a ser­vice­mem­ber can receive for val­or in action against a com­bat­ant force. Miller’s Medal of Hon­or is the sev­enth award­ed, all posthu­mous­ly, to troops serv­ing in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A liv­ing sol­dier, Army Staff Sgt. Sal­va­tore Giun­ta, has been cho­sen for the award but has yet to receive it.

“It has been said that courage is not sim­ply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the test­ing point,” Oba­ma said. “For Rob Miller, the test­ing point came near­ly three years ago, deep in a snowy Afghan val­ley. But the courage he dis­played that day reflects every virtue that defined his life: … Devo­tion to duty. An abid­ing sense of hon­or. A pro­found love of coun­try.”

Miller served as a weapons sergeant for Com­pa­ny A, 3rd Bat­tal­ion, 3rd Spe­cial Forces Group Air­borne. He was the team’s youngest mem­ber, on his sec­ond deploy­ment to Afghanistan.

His team was sup­port­ing an Afghan Bor­der Police secu­ri­ty patrol in Kunar province Jan. 25, 2008. Tal­iban fight­ers opened fire on the group from near­by build­ings and from behind boul­ders. The team called in air strikes on the ene­my posi­tion, but came under fire again when they moved for­ward to search for sur­vivors.

Miller’s team cap­tain was seri­ous­ly wound­ed, and Miller remained at the front of the patrol to lay down sup­pres­sive fire as the cap­tain was moved to safe­ty. Oth­er team mem­bers bound­ed back over the snowy ter­rain to find cov­er and return fire.

“Rob held his ground. Despite the chaos around him, he radioed back ene­my posi­tions. As the only Pash­to speak­er on his team, he orga­nized the Afghan sol­diers around him. But the incom­ing fire, in the words of one sol­dier, was sim­ply ‘astound­ing,’ ” the pres­i­dent said.

“Rob made a deci­sion. He called for his team to fall back. And then he did some­thing extra­or­di­nary. Rob moved in the oth­er direc­tion — toward the ene­my, draw­ing their guns away from his team and bring­ing the fire of all those insur­gents down upon him­self,” Oba­ma said.

The young weapons sergeant con­tin­ued to fire his weapon and lob grenades at the ene­my posi­tions, draw­ing fire to cov­er the team’s move­ment even after he was wound­ed by machine-gun fire. Army accounts of the inci­dent said more than 100 Tal­iban fight­ers shot at Miller. Team mem­bers say he returned fire for more than 20 min­utes after he was wound­ed. Then his weapon and radio went silent.

“This is the sto­ry of what one Amer­i­can sol­dier did for his team, but it’s also a sto­ry of what they did for him,” Oba­ma said. “Two of his team­mates braved the bul­lets and rushed to Rob’s aid. In those final moments, they were there at his side — Amer­i­can sol­diers there for each oth­er.

“The relent­less fire forced them back, but they refused to leave their fall­en com­rade. When rein­force­ments arrived, these Amer­i­cans went in again — risk­ing their lives, tak­ing more casu­al­ties — deter­mined to bring Rob Miller out of that val­ley. And final­ly, after fight­ing that raged for hours, they did,” the pres­i­dent said.

Miller’s courage saved his captain’s life, and enabled sev­en of his fel­low Spe­cial Forces sol­diers and 15 Afghan troops to sur­vive, gain cov­er and repel the attack, Army offi­cials said.

The pres­i­dent said Miller’s lega­cy endures in the love of his par­ents, the pride of his broth­ers and sis­ters, in the Afghans he trained and defend­ed, and in the ser­vice of his team­mates.

“Final­ly, Rob Miller — and all those who give their lives in our name — endure in each of us. Every Amer­i­can is safer because of their ser­vice. And every Amer­i­can has a duty to remem­ber and hon­or their sac­ri­fice,” Oba­ma said.

Miller was born in Har­ris­burg, Pa., and raised in Wheaton, Ill. His fam­i­ly moved to Flori­da short­ly after the young man grad­u­at­ed from Wheaton High School. He joined the Army in 2003, grad­u­at­ed from the Spe­cial Forces Qual­i­fi­ca­tion Course in 2004 and com­plet­ed the Spe­cial Forces Weapons Sergeant Course in 2005.

In addi­tion to his par­ents, Miller is sur­vived by his broth­ers Thomas, Mar­tin and Edward; and sis­ters Joan­na, Mary, Therese and Patri­cia.

First Lady Michelle Oba­ma, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Army Sec­re­tary John McHugh, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Navy Adm. Eric Olsen, com­man­der of U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand, attend­ed today’s cer­e­mo­ny.

Also on hand were sev­er­al of Miller’s team­mates from Alpha Com­pa­ny and more than 100 of his friends and fam­i­ly mem­bers.

Here is the text of Miller’s Medal of Hon­or cita­tion:

The Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, autho­rized by act of Con­gress, March 3rd, 1863, has award­ed, in the name of the Con­gress, the Medal of Hon­or to Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller, Unit­ed States Army, for con­spic­u­ous gal­lantry and intre­pid­i­ty at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.

Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller dis­tin­guished him­self by extra­or­di­nary acts of hero­ism while serv­ing as the weapons sergeant in Spe­cial Forces Oper­a­tional Detach­ment Alpha 3312, Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Task Force 33, Com­bined Joint Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Task Force Afghanistan, dur­ing com­bat oper­a­tions against an armed ene­my in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on Jan­u­ary 25th, 2008.

While con­duct­ing a com­bat recon­nais­sance patrol through the Gowardesh Val­ley, Staff Sergeant Miller and his small ele­ment of U.S. and Afghan Nation­al Army sol­diers engaged a force of 15 to 20 insur­gents occu­py­ing pre­pared fight­ing posi­tions. Staff Sergeant Miller ini­ti­at­ed the assault by engag­ing the ene­my posi­tions with his vehicle’s tur­ret-mount­ed Mk 19 40-mil­lime­ter auto­mat­ic grenade launch­er, while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pro­vid­ing detailed descrip­tions of the ene­my posi­tions to his com­mand, enabling effec­tive, accu­rate close air sup­port.

Fol­low­ing the engage­ment, Staff Sergeant Miller led a small squad for­ward to con­duct a bat­tle dam­age assess­ment. As the group neared the small, steep, nar­row val­ley that the ene­my had inhab­it­ed, a large, well-coor­di­nat­ed insur­gent force ini­ti­at­ed a near ambush, assault­ing from ele­vat­ed posi­tions with ample cov­er.

Exposed and with lit­tle avail­able cov­er, the patrol was total­ly vul­ner­a­ble to ene­my rock­et-pro­pelled grenades and auto­mat­ic weapons fire.

As a point man, Staff Sergeant Miller was at the front of the patrol, cut off from sup­port­ing ele­ments and less than 20 meters from ene­my forces. Nonethe­less, with total dis­re­gard for his own safe­ty, he called for his men to quick­ly move back to cov­er posi­tions as he charged the ene­my over exposed ground and under over­whelm­ing ene­my fire in order to pro­vide pro­tec­tive fire for his team.

While maneu­ver­ing to engage the ene­my, Staff Sergeant Miller was shot in the upper tor­so. Ignor­ing the wound, he con­tin­ued to push the fight. Mov­ing to draw fire from over 100 ene­my fight­ers upon him­self, he then again charged for­ward through an open area in order to allow his team­mates to safe­ly reach cov­er.

After killing at least 10 insur­gents, wound­ing dozens more and repeat­ed­ly expos­ing him­self to with­er­ing ene­my fire while mov­ing from posi­tion to posi­tion, Staff Sergeant Miller was mor­tal­ly wound­ed by ene­my fire. His extra­or­di­nary val­or ulti­mate­ly saved the lives of sev­en mem­bers of his own team and 15 Afghan Nation­al Army sol­diers.

Staff Sergeant Miller’s hero­ism and self­less­ness above and beyond the call of duty and at the cost of his own life are in keep­ing with the high­est tra­di­tions of mil­i­tary ser­vice and reflect great cred­it upon him­self and the Unit­ed States Army.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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