Few events happen in the life of a military family that is quite as heart stopping. There is the fear of the Army Chaplain pulling up in front of your house, and then there is that other fear. With the ring of a telephone and one look at Lynn Miller’s face – laughter around the Miller dining table ceased. Mr. Miller remembers first learning his son had been hurt.
Lynn Miller remembers the phone call vividly. "His first sergeant called and told us he had been wounded," Lynn said.
Two surgeries and three weeks later, Staff Sgt. Zebulen Miller was back in active duty completing four more months on his tour in Iraq.
Miller recently received the prestigious Purple Heart in the presence of friends and family at the Dyess Air Force Base on Friday, February 9th. Col. Timothy Ray, 7th Bomb Wing commander, also pinned the Army Commendation Medal next to Miller’s Purple Heart.
According to the website ThePurpleHeart.com, General George Washington wanted to honor the service of his troops, so he “chose a select few of his troops to receive a small purple cloth Badge of Merit, the precursor to the Purple Heart award… the only documented surviving example” is on exhibit at the New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site in New York’s Hudson River Valley.
This is the same location as the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. Located sixty miles north of Manhattan and ten miles north of the United States Military Academy at West Point, the cantonment was an extensive military post housing approximately 7,500 soldiers and 500 civilian dependents in the closing years of the Revolutionary War. According to ThePurpleHeart.com “officers met here in a chapel and meeting hall called the "Temple of Virtue" to review candidates for the Badge of Military Merit, the inspiration for today’s Purple Heart. In 1932, 138 veterans of World War I received some of the nation’s first Purple Hearts on Temple Hill near the site of the "Temple of Virtue."
The website wikipedia.com offers further insight into the Purple Heart. It states that “The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving on or after April 5th 1917 with the U.S. military.” In rewarding his troops with the first Badge of Merit, General George Washington stated “Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the Purple Heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen.”
Giving of his own blood is exactly what Staff Sgt. Zebulen Miller did while serving with the Army at Camp Normandy in Iraq on April 30th 2007.
Miller had reportedly just left the camp’s dining hall for his living quarters when a 60-mm mortar exploded less than 20 feet from him. Charles G. Anderson Sr. reported to the Abilene Reporter-News that “shrapnel pierced Miller’s leg and he was quickly transported by helicopter to Balad Air Base in Iraq for surgery.” Col. Timothy Ray stated that “the blast knocked him against a wall about 10 feet away.” Ray further noted that when Miller had healed he was back in combat within three weeks.
The Abilene Reporter-News stated that Miller’s mother, Debbie Miller from Johnson City, had to wipe her tears away as Ray spoke. But thankfully, these were not the tears of a mother being consoled by a military chaplain on a grim Friday evening – but rather tears of pride and joy over the hero that her son had become.