By Michael Pineda
Like veterans before him, Matt Miller’s military service came as a result of an attack on America.
Matt Miller, owner of Miller Technology Services, has a history of service in his family. His father was drafted right after the Korean Conflict and his uncle had been in the Air Force. Miller’s grandfather helped the country on the home front as a married farmer in World War II while others in the family took up arms.
Miller said when the call came, the family was willing to serve and it left an impression on him.
“I had thought about military service when I got out of high school and talked myself out of it,” he said. “And then, when 9/11 happened in 2001, I woke up the next morning and pretty much resolved that I was going to do some type of military service. That was the 12th. By Sept. 18, I had set up a time to go down and visit a recruiter at the National Guard station down the street and I joined the Army National Guard. The thought process was, we are going to do something to somebody. But we didn’t know who and we didn’t know what, right?”
Prior to enlisting, Miller had worked in information technology and burned out. At the time of 9/11, he was an assistant manager at a Sonic in Edmond. Although not many people knew what would happen after the Twin Towers were destroyed, Miller decided he would sign up, be trained and when the time came, take part in whatever action America took. He enlisted on Sept. 20 and shipped out in March.
His career path in the military was set after he did well on the tests and was placed in communications.
“I had only been outside of Oklahoma to our neighboring states for some vacation,” Miller said. “I joined the military and they flew me to South Carolina for basic and then to Georgia for eight months for AIT (advanced infantry training).”
In September 2003, Miller was deployed to Afghanistan. Prior to that, there was six months of training at Fort Carson in Colorado.
“It was the first time I had seen a mountain and I had never been outside of the United States until we landed in Germany,” Miller said. “They refueled our plane and gave us a few minutes to walk around there on base. They put us back on the plane and sent us to Manas, Kyrgyzstan. That was all on chartered commercial planes.”
Every day for a week, Miller and his fellow servicemen went to the flight line and loaded on the plane only to unload and go back to the barracks. They finally flew to Kabul and it was quickly apparent to Miller he was in a different world.
“They kicked you off the plane, handed you bullets,” he said. “At that time they picked us up on these French troop transports that were open topped and open sided, You sat on a seat and had all your guns facing out and drove us into the camp we would live for the next year.”
Although it was pretty dark, Miller saw a lot of destruction. Building blown up and bombed out along with burned out structures.
“A kid from Oklahoma that has never been out of country, welcome to the third world,” he said. “That was a big eye opener for me at that time.”
Miller was in Afghanistan for a six-month deployment that was extended by three months. During his time in the National Guard, he would also be deployed to Iraq in 2008 and Afghanistan once again in 2012.
In Iraq, Miller was stationed in Baghdad, staying in the old Republican Guard Palace. When he returned to Afghanistan in 2012, it was much different.
“When I went back in 2012, that base had really grown up,” he said. “It had its own water treatment facility. It had an actual building for a dining facility. It was made out of brick, instead of eating out of tents. When I was there before, we had a big circus type facility where we ate. The showers the first time around were built out of containers you would see on the back of a semi. Kind of container modules put together that made up shower facilities. All that had changed.”
Miller would not stay in Afghanistan long. After about a month, the unit received an email that the rest of the unit would not be joining them. They were instead sent to Kuwait where they would assist in the final pullout of troops in Iraq.
“We were the life support and prepared the base for the pull out,” Miller said. “Within weeks we went from a few thousand to about 20,000 around Christmas time. We were supporting all aspects of life for those troops.”
In total, Miller did two tours with headquarters element of the brigade in the 45th and one with the 1/60th artillery battalion, which is part of infantry brigade in Kuwait.”
“The military was good to me,” Miller said. “I did pretty good in the structure it gave me. Even though I joined the guard I spent a lot of time on active duty. That experience was probably good for me. I was able to do well and there was the camaraderie.
“When you are deployed those people become your family. Everywhere you go in life you make connections with people, but when you can go into a place where people on the street want to kill you, those connections are different. I don’t know how to explain it or describe it, but when you live in a place where things go boom, your connection to people is different.”
Miller considered making a career out of the service but the physical toll it took on his body prevented that from becoming an option. He did not feel his body could hold up another seven or eight years. To this day, Miller said he is still somewhat limited due to his duty.
“I know people around me would say it shaped me and changed me as far as you can’t go through those experiences and not be changed,” he said. “But I know that it really shaped me differently. I don’t know that I am different than I would have been if I had not experienced those things.”
Miller said the biggest impact was probably =with his wife and children made throughout the years. On a personal level, The changes his service had were not as much with himself as it was the relationships he had.
“You come back and there are still roughly the same things that you remember, except they are not. they are different, their lives have changed,” he said. “They have had experiences that we were not there for.”
Miller said the relationships are not the same and in some ways, you have to come home and start over again.
“About the times you start to get familiar with people and rekindle those relationships, you get the call to serve again,” he said.
“I think that is part of the reason suicides are such a problem among veterans. There is a lot of loss there. You don’t think about it as loss. The people are not gone, but there is a lot of loss because the relationships are not what you had. They have changed. That takes adjustments.”