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USAF Maj. Curtis Dan MillerMaj. Curtis Dan Miller
Fallen MIA Air Force Pilot's Return and Funeral

USAF Maj. Curtis Dan Miller wife said, "My husband was a hero. He always served people. I am so terribly proud of him ... he gave his last measure for our country."

Over the years, family members received piecemeal information. They heard reports that the Air Force had picked up emergency beacons coming from the crash site, a tip that did not pan out. In 1983, the Air Force gave Susan Miller a wedding ring found at the site, with the inscription, "Forever Love Sue."

According to a Houston Chronicle story, the 14K gold band was in perfect condition, giving family members hope that Miller was able to flee the burning wreckage.

Miller, who grew up in Palacios, Texas, met Susan, then 19, in college and the two married shortly after in 1966, she said in an interview. In 1969, she gave birth to their daughter Christy. In 1971, Miller deployed to Thailand to serve with the 16th Special Operations Squadron.

On March 29, 1972, 14 men were aboard an AC-130A Spectre gunship that took off from Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, on an armed reconnaissance mission over southern Laos. The aircraft was struck by an enemy surface-to-air missile and crashed. Search and rescue efforts were stopped after a few days due to heavy enemy activity in the area.

In 1986, joint U.S.- Lao Peoples Democratic Republic teams, lead by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), surveyed and excavated the crash site in Savannakhet Province, Laos. The team recovered human remains and other evidence including two identification tags, life support items and aircraft wreckage. From 1986 to 1988, the remains were identified as those of nine men from this crew.

Between 2005 and 2006, joint teams resurveyed the crash site and excavated it twice. The teams found more human remains, personal effects and crew-related equipment. As a result, JPAC identified the other crewmen using forensic identification tools, circumstantial evidence, mitochondrial DNA and dental comparisons.

A few years later, the military sent his wife, Susan Miller his medical tags, which had been discovered during an excavation in the mid-1980s.

Finally, last year, the government told her that it had discovered additional remains at the crash site in 2005 and '06 and began notifying families as it identified them through DNA analysis. All 14 of the men, the government says, have been identified.

"With news trickling in over the years, you think you've got a good hold of it and you're in control," she said. "But then something happens, and the emotions just come flooding. It's like he went down yesterday and I just got the news."

She arrived in Dallas Ft. Worth earlier today from Hawaii as she escorted her husband's remains back to Texas. They were warmly greeted and escorted by the North Texas PGR from the airport to a funeral home in Ft. Worth.

Miller, like the stories about her husband, has contradictions.

She teaches history to middle school students and has faith and trust in her government. Yet she will also tell you "I'm not naive" and doesn't believe that the government has always shot straight with her.
She has never bought the story that Maj. Miller died in the crash.

How or when he died, she doesn't know. She figures she never will. But she is certain he is gone and, rationally, has known that for many years.

"I know he would have tried to get home to me and his little girl," she said. "I also know I tried everything in my power to find out what happened to him."

But what goes on in the head doesn't always communicate with the heart. So over the years she dated some even got a proposal or two. But her heart always told her that she was still married, for better or for worse.

"I couldn't declare him dead," she said. "That had to come from our government."

Information and Video by Jerry Castillo /

Comment on this video honoring USAF Maj. Curtis Dan Miller

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