Monday, July 19, 2010

Marine Cpl. Paul J. Miller

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Paul J. Miller, 22, of Traverse City, Mich.

Cpl. Miller was assigned to 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; died July 19, 2010 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations.

Randy Agruda could've heard a pin drop at work, a rarity inside a Traverse City body shop where employees often chat and tinker with vehicles.

Silence filled the shop when authorities escorted a group of U.S. Marines into Hansen Collision to inform an employee that his son died during military combat. Marine Cpl. Paul James Miller, 22, of Lake Ann, died Monday after a roadside bomb exploded nearby while he was on foot patrol in Afghanistan.

"It's surreal because I've seen it on TV and read about it in the paper, but you never would've dreamed somebody would walk in to tell us someone we know died," said Agruda, who's worked with Miller's father, Jim, for several years. "It was almost like someone walked around and punched us in the stomach, and we all needed some time to catch our breath."

He was a 2006 graduate of Benzie Central High School and enlisted in the Marines shortly after graduation.

Miller's father accompanied the Marines to his wife Teresa's employer to break the news. The parents then headed to Delaware to pick up Miller's remains. He died during his third tour of duty, Agruda said.

Today, friends and local veterans are offering their support to the Miller family.

“It is heart wrenching… to see somebody have to deal with that,” said Jim Flohe, a long time friend of Paul’s Father, Jim. Honor Guard members are also vowing to make sure the family will not suffer alone. “We do our best to serve anyway we can…whatever the family wishes or the funeral homes wishes…we try to meet their wishes the best way we can,” said Honor Guard member Bill Volkening. Flohe was there when Jim Miller received the news of his son.

“Basically when Jim was on his way out to go meet his wife I gave him a big hug and just let him know…whatever we can do to support or help…just let us know,” Flohe said. Yesterday, his parents went to Dover, Delaware to receive their son and bring him home.

Rosa Norconk lives across the street from the Miller family, and watched Paul Miller grow up. "The neighbors just loved him," said Norconk, who often saw Miller ride a skateboard down the street before he joined the military. "He was always laughing and always jumping. A kid at heart, that's what he was. He was just a really nice kid all throughout his life."

Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Cherryland Post in Traverse City this week mourned Miller's death. "It's another comrade who died and it's too bad," said Doug Jordan, post quarter master and a retired Marine. "We're a small branch of the services and when you lose one, it affects all Marines."

Miller was an avid fisherman, and often tested his luck in Benzie County waters during his military leave. "Jim (Miller) loved to fish with his son," Agruda said. "It was great therapy for him."

7 & 4 News spoke with Miller's father-in-law who said he was a "Fine young man, and that his daughter, is devastated with the loss of her husband and best friend." The couple was married 2 1/2 years and was planning on starting a family when he returned from Afghanistan.

Miller is survived by his wife Sarah Beth, sister and parents Teresa and Jim Miller.

Marine Cpl. Paul J. Miller was killed in action on 7/19/10.

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