THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Good afternoon. And on behalf of Michelle and
myself, welcome to the White House. And thank you, General Carver, for that
We are a nation of more than 300 million Americans. Of these, less than 1
percent wears the uniform of our Armed Services. And of these, just a small
fraction has earned the badges of our Special Operations Forces.
In the finest military the world has ever known, these warriors are the best of
the best. In an era that prizes celebrity and status, they are “quiet
professionals” — never seeking the spotlight. In a time of war, they have borne
a burden far beyond their small numbers — training foreign militaries to stand
on their own; bringing schools and medicine to remote villages; and taking to
the terrorists and insurgents who plot against us.
Few Americans ever see their service, but all Americans are safer because of it.
And our hearts swell with pride just hearing their names, including the
legendary Green Berets. Today, it is my privilege to present our nation's
highest military decoration — the Medal of Honor — to one of these remarkable
soldiers, Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller.
To do so, we are joined by Vice President Biden, and from the Miller's family's
home state of Florida, a leader who helped make this day possible, Congresswoman
We are joined by leaders from across my administration, including Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen;
and leaders from our Armed Forces, including Army Secretary John McHugh and
Chief of Staff General George Casey, as well as Commander of Special Operations
Command, Admiral Eric Olson.
We are honored to be joined by Rob's fellow soldiers in whose ranks he served —
his teammates from Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group from
Fort Bragg, and those who now welcome him into their ranks, members of the Medal
of Honor Society.
Most of all, we welcome more than 100 of Rob's friends and family, especially
his father Phil, his mother Maureen and his many brothers and sisters.
It has been said that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of
every virtue at the testing point. For Rob Miller, the testing point came nearly
three years ago, deep in a snowy Afghan valley. But the courage he displayed
that day reflects every virtue that defined his life.
Rob was wise beyond his years. Growing up in Wheaton, Illinois, outside of
Chicago, he was the boy in school who penned a poem about American GI's in World
War II, men — like the soldier Rob would become himself — who he said fought day
and night, fighting for what they thought was right.
Rob was born to lead — the high school gymnast who trained so hard his coach had
to kick him out at night so they could close the gym. He was the Army recruit
who pushed himself to his limits — both physically and mentally — to earn the
title Green Beret. He was the Special Forces soldier who, on his first tour in
Afghanistan, earned two Army Commendation Medals for his valor.
Devotion to duty. An abiding sense of honor. A profound love of country. These
were the virtues that found their ultimate expression when Rob — just 24 years
old and on his second tour — met his testing point on January 25, 2008.
Rob and his team were in the remote northwest of Afghanistan. Their mission:
clear a valley of insurgents who had been attacking Afghan forces and
terrorizing villagers. So when they came across an insurgent compound, Rob and
his men made their move, unleashing their fire and calling in airstrikes.
Now, they were on foot, heading over to that destroyed compound, to assess the
damage and gather intelligence. It was still dark, just before dawn. It was
freezing cold — and silent, except for the crackle of their radios and the
crunch of snow under their boots. Like so many times before, Rob was up front —
leading a patrol of two dozen Afghans and Americans on a narrow trail along the
valley floor, the steep mountains towering over them.
First, it was just a single insurgent, jumping out from behind a boulder. Then,
the whole valley seemed to explode with gunfire. Within seconds, Rob and his
patrol were pinned down, with almost no cover — bullets and rocket-propelled
grenades raining down from every direction. And when enemy reinforcements poured
in, the odds were overwhelming. Rob's small patrol of two dozen men was nearly
surrounded by almost 150 insurgents.
With the enemy just feets away — some so close he could see their faces — Rob
held his ground. Despite the chaos around him, he radioed back enemy positions.
As the only Pashto speaker on his team, he organized the Afghan soldiers around
him. But the incoming fire, in the words of one soldier, was simply
Rob made a decision. He called for his team to fall back. And then he did
something extraordinary. Rob moved in the other direction — toward the enemy,
drawing their guns away from his team and bringing the fire of all those
insurgents down upon himself.
The fighting was ferocious. Rob seemed to disappear into clouds of dust and
debris, but his team could hear him on the radio, still calling out the enemy's
position. And they could hear his weapon still firing as he provided cover for
his men. And then, over the radio, they heard his voice. He had been hit. But
still, he kept calling out enemy positions. Still, he kept firing. Still, he
kept throwing his grenades. And then they heard it — Rob's weapon fell silent.
This is the story of what one American soldier did for his team, but it's also a
story of what they did for him. Two of his teammates braved the bullets and
rushed to Rob's aid. In those final moments, they were there at his side —
American soldiers there for each other.
The relentless fire forced them back, but they refused to leave their fallen
comrade. When reinforcements arrived, these Americans went in again — risking
their lives, taking more casualties — determined to bring Rob Miller out of that
valley. And finally, after fighting that raged for hours, they did.
When the dust settled and the smoke cleared, there was no doubt Rob Miller and
his team had struck a major blow against the local insurgency. Five members of
his patrol had been wounded, but his team had survived. And one of his teammates
surely spoke for all of them when he said of Rob, “I would not be alive today if
not for his ultimate sacrifice.”
This is the valor that America honors today. To Rob's family and friends, I know
that no words can ease the ache in your hearts. But I also know this — Rob's
life and legacy endures.
Rob endures in the pride of his parents. Phil and Maureen, you raised a
remarkable son. Today and in the years to come, may you find some comfort in
knowing that Rob gave his life doing what he loved — protecting his friends and
defending his country. You gave your oldest son to America, and America is
forever in your debt.
Rob endures in the love of his brothers and sisters, all seven of whom join us
today. Your brothers laid down his life so you could live yours in security and
freedom. You honor him by living your lives to the fullest, and I suspect Rob
would be especially proud of his younger brother Tom, who, inspired by his big
brother, is now training to be a Green Beret himself.
Rob endures in the Afghans that he trained and he befriended. In valleys and
villages half a world away, they remember him — the American who spoke their
language, who respected their culture and who helped them defend their country.
They welcomed him into their homes and invited him to their weddings. And in a
sign of their lasting gratitude, they presented Rob's parents with a beautiful
Afghan flag — Afghan rug, which hangs today in the Miller home, a symbol of the
partnership between the people of America and Afghanistan.
Rob Miller endures in the service of his teammates — his brothers in arms who
served with him, bled with him and fought to bring him home. These soldiers
embody the spirit that guides our troops in Afghanistan every day — the courage,
the resolve, the relentless focus on their mission: to break the momentum of the
Taliban insurgency, and to build the capacity of Afghans to defend themselves,
and to make sure that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorists who
would attack our country. That is their mission, that is our mission, and that
is what we will do. And I would ask Rob's team, who were with him that day, to
please stand and be recognized. (Applause.)
Finally, Rob Miller — and all those who give their lives in our name — endure in
each of us. Every American is safer because of their service. And every American
has a duty to remember and honor their sacrifice.
If we do — if we keep their legacy alive, if we keep faith with the freedoms
they died to defend — then we can imagine a day, decades from now, when another
child sits down at his desk, ponders the true meaning of heroism and finds
inspiration in the story of a soldier — Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller and a
generation that “fought day and night, fighting for what they thought was
That is the meaning of this medal. And that is our summons today, as a proud and
grateful nation. So please join me in welcoming Phil and Maureen Miller for the
reading of the citation. (Applause.)
MILITARY AIDE: The President of the United States of America, authorized by act
of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded, in the name of the Congress, the
Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller, United States Army, for
conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the
call of duty.
Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller distinguished himself by extraordinary acts of
heroism while serving as the weapons sergeant in Special Forces Operational
Detachment Alpha 3312, Special Operations Task Force 33, Combined Joint Special
Operations Task Force Afghanistan, during combat operations against an armed
enemy in Kunar Province, Afghanistan, on January 25th, 2008.
While conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol through the Gowardesh Valley,
Staff Sergeant Miller and his small element of U.S. and Afghan National Army
soldiers engaged a force of 15 to 20 insurgents occupying prepared fighting
positions. Staff Sergeant Miller initiated the assault by engaging the enemy
positions with his vehicle's turret-mounted Mk 19 40-millimeter automatic
grenade launcher, while simultaneously providing detailed descriptions of the
enemy positions to his command, enabling effective, accurate close air support.
Following the engagement, Staff Sergeant Miller led a small squad forward to
conduct a battle damage assessment. As the group neared the small, steep, narrow
valley that the enemy had inhabited, a large, well-coordinated insurgent force
initiated a near ambush, assaulting from elevated positions with ample cover.
Exposed and with little available cover, the patrol was totally vulnerable to
enemy rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire.
As a point man, Staff Sergeant Miller was at the front of the patrol, cut off
from supporting elements and less than 20 meters from enemy forces. Nonetheless,
with total disregard for his own safety, he called for his men to quickly move
back to cover positions as he charged the enemy over exposed ground and under
overwhelming enemy fire in order to provide protective fire for his team.
While maneuvering to engage the enemy, Staff Sergeant Miller was shot in the
upper torso. Ignoring the wound, he continued to push the fight. Moving to draw
fire from over 100 enemy fighters upon himself, he then again charged forward
through an open area in order to allow his teammates to safely reach cover.
After killing at least 10 insurgents, wounding dozens more and repeatedly
exposing himself to withering enemy fire
while moving from position to position, Staff Sergeant Miller was mortally wounded by enemy fire. His extraordinary
valor ultimately saved the lives of seven members of his own team and 15 Afghan
National Army soldiers.
Staff Sergeant Miller's heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of
duty and at the cost of his own life are in keeping with the highest traditions
of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States