City to unveil marker honoring Vietnam War hero

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Elizabeth City officials plan to honor the late Sgt. Franklin Douglas “Doug” Miller, shown here wearing his Medal of Honor, at a special ceremony on Friday. Miller is the only Elizabeth City native to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest honor for valor.

052319 Memorial

From staff reports

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Elizabeth City officials will pay tribute to the city’s only Medal of Honor recipient during a special ceremony at the city’s Veterans Memorial Park on Friday.

A memorial marker honoring the late Franklin Douglas “Doug” Miller will be unveiled at the park at 222 North Water Street, Friday at 10 a.m.

U.S. Cmdr. Warren Judge of Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City will be the keynote speaker for the hour-long event. Also participating in the ceremony will be city Mayor Bettie J. Parker; Lucille Vogel, chaplain for American Legion Post 82; and members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6060.

Miller, who was born in Elizabeth City on Jan. 27, 1945, and died in Florida on June 30, 2000, was awarded the nation’s highest honor for valor for his heroism under fire in Vietnam in 1970.

According to his obituary in The New York Times, Miller, a staff sergeant in the Green Berets, was leading a seven-man patrol of American soldiers and Montagnard tribesmen in Laos on Jan. 5, 1970 when a booby trap injured five of his men and brought his patrol under attack by North Vietnamese troops.

Every member of Miller’s patrol was wounded in the ensuing firefight, including Miller, who was hit in the chest. Four of the wounded soldiers under Miller’s command would ultimately die in the attack.

Miller recalled in an interview with an Army publication at Fort Bragg in 1988 that he was about to panic when he “had something of a religious experience,” his Times obituary states. He said Sgt. Roy Bumgarner — his mentor from when he was in the Army’s First Calvary Division — appeared to him as if in a dream and said, “‘Calm down, otherwise you’ll scare yourself into shock.’” Miller said he then “tried to calm down and think about what I had to do.”

What he had to do was fend off two attacks by North Vietnamese soldiers, which he managed to do while wounded and firing from an exposed position. The firefight got so intense, an evacuation helicopter was driven off by the enemy fire. It wasn’t until later that evening, as he was running out of ammunition, that a relief patrol evacuated Miller and the only two other patrol members to survive the attack.

Because of his actions in the battle, Miller was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon at the White House on June 15, 1971. He also was awarded a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, the Air Medal, and six Purple Hearts over the course of his six years of service in Vietnam.

Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, later referred to Miller as ‘’an icon to what service in the armed forces is about.’’

Miller published a memoir of his wartime experiences, “Reflections of a Warrior: Six Years as a Green Beret in Vietnam,” in 1991. A year later, he retired from the Army as a command sergeant major. He would go on to became a benefits counselor for the Veterans Administration.

Miller died at age 55 from cancer. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered in New Mexico.

In 2002, Fort Bragg, where Miller sometimes had visited and spoke to Special Forces trainees, rededicated Range 37 in Miller’s honor.

City officials said in a press release they first decided last fall to dedicate a memorial in Miller’s honor at Veterans Memorial Park, which opened in 2017. Dexter O. Harris, director of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Parks and Recreation Department, headed up the effort. The marker honoring Miller includes a summary of his military service and honors, and cost the city $2,405, officials said.

North Water Street will be closed between East Elizabeth Street and East Colonial Avenue for approximately 45 minutes during Friday’s ceremony honoring Miller, city officials said.