An Air Force veteran, David Miller has served as a part-time member of Wittenberg University’s faculty since 1999. In his 20 years at Wittenberg, he has helped students learn about and cultivate a love for geology. He’s also a health inspector and was part of the famous archeology team led by Jack Horner that inspired the novel Jurassic Park.
One of the first things you learn in Miller’s class is about his time in the U.S. Air Force soon after the end of the Vietnam War. He was with the Air Force’s 314th Combat Support Unit from Oct. 16, 1976 to Sept. 16, 1978. He then took his G.I. Bill to study at Wright State University. Inspired to become a geologist, he has taught students at Wittenberg and other universities. This Veterans Day, Wittenberg would like to thank him and every other veteran for their service.
Wittenberg: When and why did you join the military?
Answer: I enlisted when I was 16 years old. My parents, unfortunately, were alcoholics, and I wanted to get out of the house. I expressed interest in the Air Force. I got my paperwork together, and I had one that my folks had to sign to allow me to go into the military since I was under the age of 18. I told my parents that ‘Hey, you need to sign this, I’m going to get my physical. It doesn’t mean I’m going in.’ I came home with the physical paperwork and my enlistment date. My parents weren’t happy as I had tricked them into signing it, but it all worked out. I was brought up in a patriotic family, though, and my father had also been in the Air Force. I felt it was my duty to serve. I graduated from high school early and went in to the Air Force in October of 1976.
Wittenberg: What was your role in the Air Force?
Answer: I was a personnel specialist. My ASVAB [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] score was very high, so I had my pick of what I could do. I chose personnel. It was a desk job, and I made sure that people had the right training and security clearance to do their job.
Wittenberg: Do you have any lessons or memories from basic training that are still very important to you?
Answer: Whenever there is a crisis, I jump right in. It’s what I’m trained to do – not to be a watcher, but to be a doer. That’s what the military teaches you to do. Basic was a fast six weeks, grueling at times. I remember telling a buddy of mine in the bunk next to me that this reminded me of Boy Scout Camp. I swear they must have had microphones somewhere in the dorm because five minutes later the drill sergeant walked in, calls us to attention, and he calls me out. He says ‘Miller, do you think that this is Boy Scout Camp? It that what you really think? Get down and give me 15!’ Things like that are the things I’m always going to remember. Fifteen ended up being 15 pushups with the drill sergeant’s boot on my back.
I’m a firm believer that everyone in this country should go through some kind of national service. I think that to be a part of the United States, everyone should give two years of their life no matter what. All of us could gain a benefit from that personally, and nationally.
From being in the military, I can talk to anybody, because that’s what you did. There’s never a stranger. When you’re in the military it’s a brotherhood and sisterhood for life. We were all strangers from different parts of the country thrown in to do a job. And because of that I’m sure that’s where my willingness to go up and talk to people comes from.
Wittenberg: What advice do you have for students?
Answer: I tell them to follow their dreams, whatever they may be, for as long as they can. Especially when they’re young and don’t have the responsibilities that life puts on all of us.
-By Emma Seibert ’21, University Communications