Thursday, April 3, 2014

I'll See You Again Mike Miller!

March 31, 2014 ~ When you have an opportunity to get involved in organizations you have no idea what you will get out of it. You know that you are going to do your very best and do what's asked of you but you really have no idea how it or who will impact you. I had the privilege of being involved with the Central Missouri Honor Flight last year. I would get a chance to be a very small piece of something huge on Flight #25 and Flight #26. On these two flights I would not only meet some amazing veterans but I would also meet some amazing people (some of who were veterans as well) that would be known as guardians. A gentleman by the name of Mike Miller was on both flights and although I didn't get to talk to him a lot I did watch how he interacted with his veterans and the care and compassion he showed to other veterans. He would also be responsible for helping the veterans off the bus along with other guardians that served in dual roles for these flights. Safety is the number one concern when we are on an Honor Flight and it's amazing to watch the well oiled machine of everyone serving in various roles work. I really wished I had time to visit with many of the guardians and their veterans but when we attend the Honor Flights they are very fast paced and such a long day for everyone that I wanted the guardians and their veterans to rest when they could and talk amongst themselves without interrupting. Besides I would have other opportunities down the road to chat with them right?

After Central Missouri Honor Flight # 26 I would find myself thinking about everyone involved on the flights. The awesome coordination and dedication that Steve, Sharon and Mary Paulsell have worked on since the beginning as well as the countless volunteers, guardians, Patriot Guard Riders, supporters and of course our veterans. I couldn't wait to see them again as I had recently entered this wonderful organization and came out with a great sisterhood/brotherhood bond. Every once in a while I would see one of the volunteers and/or guardians out and about and it would make me smile.

My two passions in life are children and seniors/veterans. Just something about those two age groups truly make me smile and we can all learn so much from both of them.  Children want to learn from you and I love hearing their stories about things that are important to them. They "tell it like it is" and I love that too. Seniors/Veterans have so much to teach us. Their knowledge isn't something you will find in a book but rather the life they lived. They are at a point in their life that they "tell it like it is" as well and I love this also! Our veterans are National Treasures and the stories they tell us are unique and one-of-a-kind because no one else lived their exact life. You would never find this kind of history without talking to that person. The feelings, thoughts and sense of what they have been through won't grab a hold of you like sitting down with someone one on one and talking. It's my happy place.

Just after Christmas 2013 I got word that Mike Miller had been diagnosed with liver cancer and I reached out to him on Facebook to let him know I was thinking about him and we would get through this together. I received a private message on Facebook from Mike and this is what it said....

December 28, 2013 at 7:37 AM 
Michele, I was so glad to be your friend on here and your comment got me going this morning. Another day waiting, but yesterday was the first day in 2 weeks I felt good. Didn't realize on the last Honor Flight that this beast was already in me. I will defeat it though and see you on another Honor Flight soon. - Mike

 Mike my heart sank when I heard this... But with the right attitude, right doctors, right friends we can beat this thing! It doesn't stand a chance! I am so glad to connect with you on here and if there is anything I can do on this end just yell or send smoke signals! Chin up buttercup... You got this! - Michele

January 3, 2014 at 7:44 PM
Things aren't going well Michele. The liver cancer doctor in St. Louis said he couldn't do anything for me. Back to Columbia to try chemo, but this type of cancer doesn't respond well to chemo. Prayer is my best hope. Thanks for thinking of me. I can't post this on Facebook because my daughter is on vacation and I don't want her to read that on here. - Mike

Oh Mike... Get a second opinion or keep asking other doctors.... I know you can beat this and I understand you not wanting to post until you talk to your daughter. Remain positive and just keep smiling... I'm thinking about ya! - Michele

January 4, 2014 at 8:48 AM
I appreciate you thinking of me Michele. I've got a long way to go, but I'm fighting it all the way. I so much want to go on more Honor Flights, but not sure about that this year.- Mike 

I didn't have anymore conversations with Mike but thought of him often. I knew he was hurting and I knew he was fighting as hard as he could. He was at Stewart Cancer Center in Columbia, MO and I would stop by to see him and took a little candy bouquet to him. This is where I would first meet his wife, son and daughter. What a wonderful family he had and so full of positivity and hope. This would be the last time I would see Mike. I gave him a big hug and would continue to post things on his wall as a way of encouragement and to hopefully make him smile. Sadly cancer took a wonderful man from us on March 23, 2014. 

Today would be Mike's funeral and several of our Central Missouri Honor Flight family would attend his funeral. This funeral would be a hard one as Mike was more than a guardian he was a friend. Also this would be the first funeral for a guardian (to my knowledge). We know that many of the veterans that go on the Honor Flights are not in the best of health and they are older and this many times is the last big thing for them. It's extremely sad yet awesome at the same time as many of them talk about this experience of going on an Honor Flight up until they pass. It gives them closure to some extent and they seem more at peace after attending an Honor Flight. It really truly is a wonderful organization that really treats our veterans like VIP's from the moment they arrive at the Courtyard by Marriott to 24 hours later when we return to the Courtyard by Marriott. I was told that Mike had attended the Honor Flights for nearly 3 years and loved what he did. He worked hard to recruit veterans to go on the Honor Flights as well as being a wonderful guardian to those he was in charge of. Mike had been involved in many things throughout his lifetime but the Central Missouri Honor Flight was very special to him. In fact, it was so special that they buried him in his blue guardian shirt and his lanyard. It was only fitting for his Central Missouri Honor Flight family to attend his funeral wearing our CMHF guardian shirts.

James Mikulin "Mike" Miller
December 24, 1952 - March 23, 2014

Mike was born on December 24, 1952, in Macon, MO, the son of Jim and Katie (Naughton) Miller. He served his country as Captain in the United States Army Military Police. Mike was united in marriage to Diana Buehrig on May 31, 1975 in St. Louis, MO. He was a Partner of Consolidated Insurance Agency in Macon, MO. Mike was a guardian for numerous Honor Flights, helped organize Macon County 911 and the First Responders, 30 year Bevier Volunteer Fireman and served as Captain for many years, past Mayor of the City of Bevier, active in the Elks Lodge in Macon, American Legion, Knights of Columbus and Masonic Lodge. He was the original First Responder in Macon County, made and placed crosses on Military Veterans' graves in the area, served on many Civic Boards in the Macon and Bevier area and especially enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. Mike is survived by his wife, Diana of the home; daughter Angela Gladhill (Kevin) of Macon; son, David Miller (Aric) of Columbia, MO; three grandsons, Andrew and Jon Maxwell and Tim Gladhill of Macon; parents Jim and Katie Miller of Macon; two sisters Barbara Winn (Gene) of Hallsville, MO and June Harvey (Larry) of Macon, MO; two brothers Mark Miller (Sherri) of Macon, MO and William Miller of St. Louis; in-laws Jim and Shirley Buehrig of St. Charles, MO; two sister-in-laws Lynn Camacho (Mark) and Sandi Nelson (Vic) of Kansas City, MO and two brother-in-laws Jim Buehrig (Nanc) and Steve Buehrig (Tina) of St. Louis and many nieces, nephews and cousins.   

The following are pictures that I took at his funeral. These pictures were not meant to be disrespectful but rather honor our CMHF Brother Mike. Many people couldn't be there for his funeral and this was a way to allow them to be a part of this day. 

It was amazing to see the outpouring support of so many. You could tell that Mike was loved by so many people and today certainly showed that. The best part was to see people actually pulled over on the side of the road with their American Flags paying respect to Mike. 

Photo Credit: Gary Blackmore

Mike loved cannons so it was only fitting to have a cannon that would fire after the 21-gun salute
(I can only imagine him smiling when this cannon was fired)

Photo Credit: Debra Hickam

Photo Credit: Gary Blackmore

21-gun salute 
Steve Paulsell playing "taps"
(along with Harold Carothers)
Reed Hickam and Steve Paulsell

A very moving day for someone very special to us... Godspeed my friend...

 After honoring one of our own this was one of my favorite part of today.... lunch with part of our Central Missouri Honor Flight family! 

Central Missouri Honor Flight #27 will take place on May 13, 2014 and this flight will be dedicated to Mike Miller which I am so excited to be going on this flight as I know it will be a bittersweet flight... instead of being a guardian on the flight he will be our guardian angel watching over us. 

Thank you for your service to our country and thank you for all the lives that you have positively touched during your time on earth..... We don't say goodbye because we'll see you again! 

 A great poem written by another CMHF Guardian.... Thank you Gary Blackmore!

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