HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – For years Earl Miller thought of Veterans Day as just another holiday. That’s not the case anymore.
“A lot of my buddies that I was in the service are no longer here. It means so much more now,” Miller said.
Miller is now 94. He lives with his wife Goldie in Hillsborough County.
He was only 19 years old, listening to a ham radio, when he heard Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, drawing America into World War II. “Actually I was probably like most people, ‘Where is Pearl Harbor?'” he explained.
Miller enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He ended up in the 14th Armored Division. “My responsibility was to keep the radios working,” Miller said.
In December 1944 the Battle of the Bulge unfolded. The Germans launched a massive desperate offensive, hammering American positions with artillery, tanks and infantry.
“When you have those shells falling around you and there’s not a whole, a lot of places to hide, you don’t know what’s coming the next minute. And that was my fear, my greatest fear,” Miller said.
He remembers bitter cold and more bitter losses. “I’m glad I made it through there; a number of my friends did not make it through there,” Miller said.
German artillery tore into Miller’s left arm in April 1945. He returned to his unit on May 7; the war in Europe ended May 8.
“That didn’t make me a bit unhappy,” Miller said. “There’s no such thing as a good war, but World War Two was a necessary war.”
Miller returned to his native Minnesota. In 1955 he did a quick job for Tampa Electric during Gasparilla. He remembers it was sunny and 75 degrees.
“I finished the job on Wednesday, got on an airplane, flew back to Minneapolis, got there at 10:30 at night. It was 20 below zero, and my car wouldn’t start,” he remembered.
He’s been in Tampa ever since.
Miller put the war behind him, raised a family and enjoys his life at University Village, a retirement community in Hillsborough County.
On Veterans Day his uniform, more than 70 years old, comes out of the closet. “I was one of 15 and a half million people who were out there,” he said. “We adopted the attitude that we had to go over and do what we did and we did it, and we came back and went on with our lives.”
He thinks of the present. “I think those who are in uniform now need our concern and prayers,” Miller said.
It’s no longer just another holiday.