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Sgt. Miller and the Medal of Honor
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Published: 10/2/2010 11:18 PM | Updated: 10/2/2010 11:22 PM

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It is impossible to know what thoughts ran through Robert Miller's mind during his life's final moments on a dark and snow-covered valley of Gowardesh, Afghanistan, almost two years ago.

As with any tragic passing, the rest of us are left to wonder. How much fear did he feel? Did he realize he was mortally wounded? Was he in much pain? Did he understand that he was a true American hero?

It is impossible to know what thoughts ran through Robert Miller's mind on that final predawn morning, but based on what is known about his character, it is reasonable to assume that he died thinking of others.

That is what the Wheaton North High School graduate always did. Think of others.

It's certainly what he did on that final day when he gave his life to save his team of seven elite soldiers and 15 Afghan troops.

As described by Daily Herald Columnist Burt Constable, the 24-year-old charged forward toward an enemy position of 140 Taliban insurgents, drawing an onslaught of their fire and engaging them in battle long enough to enable his team to move to cover.

A statement released by the White House lauded Miller's "immeasurable courage and uncommon valor."

And a release from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command said "Miller's unwavering courage and selfless actions embodied the highest principles of the Special Forces community and are a testament to the Army values he lived every day."

Since the Medal of Honor was created in 1861, a total of 3,447 recipients have earned the award. Almost half of those, 1,522, were presented to veterans of the Civil War. The conflict with the next-highest number of Medal of Honor recipients was World War II with 564.

Two Medal of Honor recipients fought in the War in Afghanistan Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy and Army Staff Sgt. Jared C. Monti.

On Wednesday, Special Forces Staff Sgt. Robert Miller will become the third.

In a ceremony at the White House, President Barack Obama will present the medal to Miller's parents, Phil and Maureen Miller.

The Medal of Honor is awarded to "a member of the armed services who distinguishes themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty."

It is a poignant honor, so often presented posthumously.

It also is the nation's highest honor, one that both reflects and inspires selflessness and valor.

To Robert Miller and his family, we and the nation say: The honor is well-deserved.

To Robert Miller and his family, we and the nation say: Thanks.