Thanks to my good friend and local Army Veteran Leo Miller, I recently learned about his nephew Jacob Paul Miller’s combat service in Afghanistan. Jake and I met for several hours at Valencia’s Corner Bakery where I listened and jotted notes about Jake’s instructive war experiences. Despite age separation, it’s interesting how combat Veterans have so much in common no matter their ages.
Jacob P. Miller was born November 2, 1986, in Granada Hills, California, but he grew up in Canyon Country graduating from Canyon High School June 17, 2005. Jake was popular and an excellent baseball player for Canyon’s Cowboys lettering all four years playing 2nd and 3rd base. Following high school, Jake attended College of the Canyons for one year, but he felt he had a higher calling and with his USMC Veteran stepdad’s influence Jake visited our local Marine recruiter’s office more than once asking questions. Jake left COC in 2006 and landed a job with Modern VideoFilm Company in Burbank, California, where he worked until he was laid off due to a writer’s strike in 2008.
Upon learning his job ended, on October 23, 2008, Jake went straight to Santa Clarita’s Marine Corps recruitment office and enlisted for five years. Jake said, “When I walked in the door, my recruiter’s eyes lit up.” Soon, Jake was taking Boot Camp at San Diego’s Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) and then combat infantry training at Camp Pendleton. Jake conceded that he simply wanted the infantry for glory. However, immediately following combat training he was assigned to Pensacola, Florida, for four months of Electronics Training but soon Jake realized that he was out of his element. Jake informed his superiors that he wanted a transfer to wherever he could best serve the Corps so he was promptly assigned to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California.
3rd Marine Division
Jake’s next four months were spent learning to become a combat Field Radio Operator which led him to the 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, of the 3rd Marine Division’s artillery unit stationed at Marine Corps Base, Kaneohe Bay in Oahu, Hawaii. Jake was assigned there for the remainder of his USMC service which included live fire howitzer training at Big Island’s Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA) located at Hawaii’s highest volcano. Jake could hardly believe his good fortune transferring from Twentynine Palms’ desert to Hawaii’s paradise. However, it wasn’t long before he was back in the desert only this time it was in faraway Helmand Province, Afghanistan’s most southern and largest province and the world’s largest opium producer which was a source of funds for the Taliban.
Fire Support Base Fiddler’s Green
Jake was assigned to Fire Support Base Fiddler’s Green near Marjah City with approximately 150 Marines. They became a “Quick Reaction Force” (QRF) which had Jake conducting vehicle mounted and foot patrols. Jake and his fellow Marines, when not on foot used Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) six wheel gun trucks designed specifically for Afghanistan and Iraq to withstand improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and ambushes. During his tour of duty, Jake was constantly on patrol. He recalls one mission, a squad size medical care effort to aid Afghans who lived in a remote mud hut shanty town. Jake said, “Those people were so poor that if a family simply had a fruit tree they were considered wealthy.” As Jake’s squad finished, they heard AK47’s firing in the distance and though the desert terrain seemed perfectly flat, they could not determine the Taliban’s exact location. But as bullets hit all around them, they had an idea where it came from, however due their ridiculous rules of engagement, they could not fire back unless they actually saw the enemy. This angered those Marines and Jake said it changed him and they all questioned the War as it seemed to have no meaning. Their camaraderie increased as they realized more than ever that they must care for each other and survival far outweighed the war’s outcome.
Irrational Rules of Engagement
Another of Jake’s missions was to provide security while new hydroelectric pumps could be installed at Kajaki Dam which had been heavily damaged early in the war against terrorism. Kajaki Dam was one of two major hydroelectric power dams in Afghanistan and its operation was critical. However, Taliban insurgents were constantly dogging this effort with sniper fire, small firefights and IED’s. Jake and his Marines were thoroughly frustrated when they learned that Echo Company was surrounded and they were not permitted to engage the enemy. Echo’s Marines suffered one KIA and a number of wounded amputees including one triple amputee. These type decisions along with irrational rules of engagement only increased Jake’s discontentment. To his knowledge, Kajaki Dam was never made operational.
Part of Jake’s tour of duty was spent training Afghani soldiers and this too irritated Jake as those soldiers demonstrated no desire to fight for their country’s freedom. Plus, Taliban infiltrators disrupted training and if any Afghan soldier displayed responsibility, they would be killed or maimed. All they wanted was their paycheck. Finally, Jake’s tour of duty ended and in November 2011, he returned to Oahu, Hawaii. USMC counselors supported Jake and his fellow combat Veterans. Amused, Jake recalled, “We were told to avoid drinking Hawaii dry”. For the remainder of his USMC service, he and his fellow Marines expected a second deployment to Afghanistan but they never received information. It was a constant concern as mental stress became a reality.
Jake, Ashley & Gavin
While on leave in January 2010, Jake made contact with a former high school classmate, Ashley Montoya, via Facebook and soon they were dating and were inseparable via texting and social media. Jake fell hard for her beauty and her terrific sense of humor. Jake said, “We were so compatible and I could just be my raw Marine self with her.” Ashley walked like a woman but she spoke like a man. A year later, Jake dropped to his knee and proposed marriage while presenting Ashley a fine diamond ring which she readily accepted. On November 23, 2011, they were married at Oahu’s beautiful Kailua Beach and on November 12, 2012, their darling son Gavin Robert Miller was born. Sadly, their marriage fell apart resulting in a 2015 divorce, however they became friendly again and their priority is providing a good life for little Gavin.
Jake was honorably discharged February 13, 2014, and he recalls the huge unforgettable party thrown for him at his Uncle Leo’s Newhall home by his family, former baseball teammates and his friends. Among Jake’s awards are the Combat Action Ribbon and Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation. Soon, Jake was back working for Modern VideoFilms but he was laid off in December 2016 so he used his GI Bill and took “Tower Climbing” training at Texas A & M where he earned his certificate. Jake returned home and landed a job with California Internet, now named GeoLinks, until February 2017 when he was laid off yet again. Jake is again using his GI Bill in pursuit of his Bachelor of Science Degree for Nursing at West Coast College in North Hollywood. Jake intends to pursue employment in Santa Clarita, the city he dearly loves.
Though Jake has experienced immense danger, stress and much frustration in his young life, you just cannot keep a good man down. Jake’s hobbies include playing softball at Central Park and in Pasadena. He loves baseball. Once he achieves a career, Jake hopes to find that perfect woman in his life. Jake is tough and resilient and he’s bound and determined to achieve his American dream.