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Ashe County Veterans History Project: Joe Miller

Joe Miller's name on blue background with red stars above

Joe Miller's Photos

Joe Miller's Story

Joe Miller was born in Ashe County on November 20, 1951, to Powell and Kathleen Miller.  His father taught math and science at Lansing and Northwest Ashe High School.  He was the third of six children and had one younger brother, David, who served in the Air Force.

Before enlisting in the Army, Joe attended Nashville Auto Diesel School in Tennessee and then went to work as an auto mechanic.  When the draft ended in 1974, Joe was in the first group to join the All-Volunteer Army.  He had lost his civilian job, so he decided to join after hearing about the Arab Oil Crisis.  His initial training took place at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  Polishing floors was the worst job in training school and adapting to the lack of privacy was difficult.  On the bright side, it was great to get ‘three hots and a cot.’  He passed all his tests the first time and was assigned to KP while others were retaking tests.  Later he missed graduation because he was still on KP duty!

Joe took specialized training in operating BIG trucks, such as the M923, a 5-ton 6x6 cargo truck, the M746 & 747 – a truck and trailer used for transporting heavy equipment, and the M911 which was used to transport battle tanks, tracked and wheeled armored vehicles, self-propelled howitzers, construction equipment, and other heavy loads. This training was hot, dirty, and hard! His first assignment was with the 377 Transportation Company in Mannheim, Germany.  His brother ended up being stationed about 70 miles away in Frankfort, Germany.

Looking back, Joe remembers a funny time with surprisingly no fear considering the situation.  The story was that he once had to ride on the fender of one of those big international trucks for a five to six mile run, at 35 – 45 mph, with his finger in the injector pump.  He was sealing off a broken piece until they were able to pull off and fix the problem.  Once while going down the Rhine River on a barge and transporting an M60A2 tank, they ran into a hailstorm.  Joe looked forward to spending off-time on weekends at the racetrack. One time Joe and his brother actually got to see Mario Andretti  racing in the German Formula One Grand Prix 1978 at Hockenhiemring. That was the year Mario won the Drivers' World Championship.

Joe joined the National Guard in the early 90s and spent some time in Saudi Arabia with the 1450 Transportation Company.  There was difficulty adjusting to the climate with hot days and cold nights.  The work was hard and dirty.  Joe had to wrap his whole face up and wear goggles to keep the sand out of his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.  His job was transporting fuel, and one way to avoid the blowing sand was to sit high up on top of the tanker between deliveries.  

“All veterans are brothers-in-arms, many are still life-long friends, and the memories are forever.”  Joe encourages other veterans to be ever vigilant about signs of PTSD.  When he retired from service and civilian jobs, these symptoms were stronger. “Being less occupied with work leaves more time to think back and relive hard memories. Things bother you more.”   

When reflecting on how military service impacted his feelings about war, Joe says, “Military service is unlike anything else you could do.  Soldiers are working to sacrifice for country, a lot like a policeman or fireman. It is an ultimate sacrifice, like Jesus Christ.  Your freedom and liberty can be gone in one election cycle.  We can vote in tyranny and socialism, but we will have to fight to get rid of it.  War is sometimes a necessary evil … It is an option, but always the last option.  Jimmy Valvano said it best: Don’t give up.  Never ever give up!”