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Army Spc. John W. Miller

Died April 12, 2005 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

21, of West Burlington, Iowa; assigned to the 224th Engineer Battalion, Iowa Army National Guard, Burlington, Iowa; died April 12 in Camp Ramadi, Iraq, of injuries sustained from enemy small-arms fire while he was performing route-clearance operations in Ramadi, Iraq.

Iraq sniper takes life of Iowa National Guardsman

By Michelle Spitzer

Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa National Guard soldier has been killed by a sniper near Ramadi, Iraq, Guard officials said.

Spc. John W. Miller, 21, of West Burlington, died Tuesday morning, Lt. Col. Greg Hapgood, Guard spokesman, said Wednesday.

He was a member of Company A, 224th Engineering Battalion, based in Burlington. The unit was mobilized in October.

Miller’s unit came across a pair of 155 millimeter shells in a crater and began to fan out in a circle to secure the area, Hapgood said.

“Spc. Miller was in a hatch of an armored personnel carrier when he was engaged by one shot from a sniper and killed,” Hapgood said.

It was not known if the sniper was captured.

Members of Miller’s family issued a statement Wednesday saying he was proud to serve his country.

“He believed in what he was doing and knew he might give his life for his country,” the family said in the statement.

Susan Swank, Miller’s aunt, said Wednesday that the boy she called ‘Johnny’ was a sweet kid who joined the military after the September 11 terrorist attacks because he felt it was his place to help out. Swank last saw her nephew over Christmas.

“I said ‘come home alive’ and he said, ‘I will,”’ Swank remembered, blinking tears from her eyes. “I said, ‘If you don’t, I’m going to shoot you myself.”

Swank was with her sister, Pamela Canty, at home Tuesday morning when she looked out a window and saw a pair of soldiers and a man in a suit approaching.

“I said, ‘Don’t answer it, don’t answer it,”’ she recalled. “I knew what it was about. The time was exactly 11:40 a.m.,” Swank said.

Miller, who had worked at Wal-Mart before he was sent to Iraq, loved listening to music and was often seen walking down the street wearing a set of headphones, his family said.

“John was a quiet person with a ready smile and a gentle heart,” the family said in the statement. “He will be missed by all whose lives he had touched.”

Miller, who enlisted in the Guard in 2002, is survived by his father, two brothers and sister. His mother died four years ago.

“But we know she would have been proud of him,” the family said. “At least he will finally be with his mother.”

Miller is the third soldier from Company A, 224th Engineering Battalion, to die while in Iraq.

Spc. Seth Garceau, 22, of Oelwein, and 2nd Lt. Richard B. “Brian” Gienau, 29, of Peoria, Ill., died Feb. 27 after their Humvee was struck by a homemade bomb.

Hapgood said losing a soldier is especially hard on a small community like West Burlington.

“That’s not a 30,000 person town,” he said. “People really know each other and it’s very difficult.”

Fallen Iowa soldier remembered as dedicated soldier

BURLINGTON, Iowa — An Iowa soldier killed by a sniper in Iraq was remembered as a dedicated soldier and a good friend.

Spc. John W. Miller, 21, of West Burlington, was killed April 12 near Ramadi. He was a member of the Iowa National Guard’s Company A, 224th Engineering Battalion, based in Burlington.

Several hundred people gathered in Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium for Wednesday’s service, where Guard Chaplain Murray Phillips said Miller was a role model for all who knew him.

“So John is now at rest, but we can live out his memory by taking a look at our lives and relationships and giving honor and thanksgiving that we had a chance to know him and that we can honor him by living our lives to the fullest,” Phillips said.

Miller’s unit came across a pair of 155 millimeter shells in a crater and began to fan out to secure the area. He was in a hatch of an armored personnel vehicle carrier when he was shot and killed by a sniper.

During the service, country music singer Alan Jackson’s song about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks was played and a soloist sang Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”

Troop Commander Col. Roy Webb read a letter written by Miller’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Todd Jacobus. In the letter, Jacobus quoted other soldiers who served with Miller.

“It is very important to me that you know two things,” Jacobus wrote. “First, John loved what he was doing. Second, John loved the soldiers with whom he served and they loved him.”

In the letter, Miller was remembered as a friend.

“I’m going to miss the person I ate with every single meal, the person who brought me a cold drink when I needed one, the person who had so many great stories to tell and who had a talent for telling them, but most of all I’m going to miss my friend.”

Another soldier said he was proud to have served with Miller.

“He was an American soldier and a combat engineer doing the job he signed on to do, and I’m proud to be associated with this outstanding American,” the letter read.

Miller was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Fort Madison.

— Associated Press

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