NEW FRANKLIN Gary Kindig is so proud of fellow Manchester High School graduate Burt Everett "Rusty" Miller, that the New Franklin resident never gave up to keep Miller’s memory alive.
You can hear it in his voice and see it in his face, Kindig will never forget Miller and his sacrifice.
Miller, a private first class in the U.S. Marine Corps., 1st Platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, and 1966 Manchester High School graduate, had only served four months in Vietnam War when he committed the ultimate act of bravery: He gave his life to save the lives of two other soldiers. He was just 19 years old.
Kindig has memorialized Miller’s sacrifice through his work to have a 5.5 mile section of state Route 93, between state Route 619 and state Route 236 named in Miller’s honor. The signs denoting the honor were recently installed in July. One sign is on the west side of Route 93, at the intersection of Route 619. The other sign is on the east side of the intersection Route 93 and Route 236. Both signs were graciously donated by the city of New Franklin and Mayor Al Bollas, Kindig said. The cost was estimated at $400.
The idea to name a stretch of highway in Miller's name came about after Kindig had already helped a fundraising effort to designate a memorial granite bench at the Ohio Veterans’ Memorial Park in Clinton.
"I wanted to do something more. This was such a loss for his parents, brothers and sisters," Kindig said. The memorial bench was dedicated in a ceremony on Nov. 9, 2011.
"Rusty," as Kindig and friends called Miller, earned the Purple Heart for his bravery. He suffered injuries from the Vietnam War battle and passed away on Nov. 4, 1968.
Miller is survived by bother, Blaine, and two sisters, Billie and Darla. Miller’s parents, Jean and Bob Miller, recently accepted the memorial highway sign in a ceremony at Manchester Cemetery held after the city of New Franklin’s Memorial Day parade.
According to an article in Vietnam Magazine, in mid-August 1968, Miller joined the battle-hardened and weary 1st Platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Since spring, the unit had been operating in the An Hoa Valley - a dense jungle some Marines considered hell on earth because of frequent guerrilla ambushes and numerous booby traps. In mid-October 1968, a grenade came hurling through the air at Miller and fellow soldiers Corpsman Mike Murphy and assistant machine gunner Nick Stamos. It landed on Miller's chest and it rolled down and caught at his waist where he held the bulky machine gun against his body. He suffered injuries which later caused his death and the other two soldiers were spared.
"I did not want anyone to forget what Rusty did," Kindig said. The community knew him and I wanted the community to honor what he did. Rusty was just a fun guy to hang with but had a serious side, also."
The process to get the highway named for Miller came about three years ago. Kindig reached a standstill, then he enlisted the help of New Franklin Mayor Al Bollas, who contacted Ohio State House Rep. Anthony DeVitis, of Green.
"He (DeVitis) acted on it quickly and within a matter of months, he introduced House Bill 43 on Feb. 7, 2017, to the 132nd Ohio Genera Assembly," Kindig said, adding the vote went through the house easily after several weeks.
And just recently, Kindig memorialized Miller again, by having a specially decorated utility truck painted with his name and Marine title.
"Our classmate, Dave Godwin, called his brother, Ray, about helping us with a Cushman Truckster that Ray reconditions. They took 2 old ones and made the 'RUSTY,' " Kindig said.
To learn more about Miller’s life, go to www.pfcrustymiller.org. For more information on the Ohio Veterans Memorial Park, 8005 Cleveland-Massillon Road, visit www.ovmp.org.