Community Spirit Award
If you've noticed the yellow banners on Main Street or joined with hundreds of others in welcoming Pleasanton military men and women back home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then you must know Chris Miller, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army, a Realtor in Pleasanton and the man behind all this patriotism.
Miller was born on the Fourth of July and it seems like destiny that he's become a super patriot for his country and in the city of Pleasanton where he's also known as a veterans' veteran. Pleasanton Weekly's "Man of the Year" in 2009 and the recipient of awards from military and community organizations, Miller is now being honored with the 2012 Tri-Valley Heroes Community Spirit Award by the Pleasanton Weekly.
A veteran of the early days of the Vietnam War, Miller later flew commercial helicopters out of San Francisco for 11 years. He regularly saw returning Vietnam War veterans as they came through SFO and also back to the Bay Area and saw them treated "awfully and with disrespect" by their fellow American citizens.
At that time, he made a mental note that if American armed forces personnel were ever sent off to combat again, he would do all in his power to see that they, and their families, were respected and comforted while they were serving in harm's way and then to make sure that they were honored and appreciated when they came home.
After the first Gulf War occurred, Miller, with the help of Marine mom Alice Johnston, formed and co-chaired the first Pleasanton Military Families Support Group in 1991. The organization held meetings Tuesday nights at Johnston's home and when the local troops came home, they welcomed them on the court where the Johnstons lived with cheering, flag-waving crowds Vietnam veterans never saw. Civic and city leaders joined in, and Miller was given permission to post American flags and yellow streamers on Main Street light poles, with each streamer listing the name, rank and branch of service of someone in the military serving in the war zones.
As a result of the organized and popular tributes, the entire Tri-Valley turned out for a welcome home parade in Hacienda Business Park when the Gulf War ended.
After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and with the Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq) wars under way, Miller started up the Pleasanton Military Families again in 2003 and it's been going ever since. It was tough at first as a large number from Pleasanton volunteered to serve, including many right out of high school, and the PMF took on increased responsibilities for maintaining contact with those in remote battlefields and their concerned families here at home.
The group now consists of about 180 families, meeting once a month and also responsible for welcome home events, where soldiers return to their hometown amidst a motorcycle convoy, flag waving, and friends, family and neighbors. Miller continues to work with the group in comforting those with sons, daughters, husbands and wives still serving, packing kits filled with supplies needed by those in the field, sending letters and building new and what have become lifelong friendships.
Miller's activities are not limited to love for country and support of the military. He is active in the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, several veterans groups and is a fixture at high school sports games and the Pleasanton Farmers Market.
Miller met his wife Marty, in San Francisco and the two have lived in Pleasanton since 1971. They have three sons, Christian, Jason and Mike.
Although Miller has stepped down as chairman of Pleasanton Military Families, he continues to take responsibility for the Yellow Banner Project on Main Street. In addition to updating ranks and replacing weathered banners, Miller personally delivers banners to the families of soldiers no longer in combat. It's this kind of personal touch that is the hallmark of Miller's service in the community.
"It was never too much for him to make that phone call or just go over," said Pat Frizzell, who now co-chairs the Pleasanton Military Families group. "Those are the things that just come natural. He never looks for the praise. He just does it because it is the right thing to do. When you have a passion for things, which he certainly does, that's what you do."
* Miller and his wife Marty have three sons. Christian, 41, lives in Carmichael and is a project manager with ATT Wireless. Another son Jason, 38, a Reservist at a unit at Travis AFB with 19 years of service, works in Information Technology at Cummings West in Hayward. A third son Mike also is a Reservist in the 301st Airlift Squadron at Travis and is a firefighter/paramedic with the Foster City Fire Department.
* Miller's most recent contribution was to help in the Pleasanton Military Families' Christmas Pack Out to Pleasanton troops deployed in Afghanistan last weekend, where 260 boxes filled with non-perishable foods and personal necessities were packed, sealed and sent to those in the combat zones.
* Miller flew U.S. Army helicopters in Vietnam in 1963-64, finished his service in 1965 and moved to San Francisco where he flew commercial helicopters from 1965-1976.
* While a commercial helicopter pilot, he regularly saw returning Vietnam War veterans as they came through SFO being treated "awfully and with disrespect" by their fellow American citizens, prompting him to vow to never let that happen again if the U.S. engages in combat.
* He organized the Tri-Valley's welcome home parade in Hacienda Business Park when the Gulf War.
* He co-founded the Pleasanton Military Families organization to help those with sons, daughters, husbands and wives serving in harm's way, packing kits filled with supplies needed by those in the field, sending letters and building new and what have become lifelong friendships.
* Miller's yellow banners fly on Pleasanton's Main Street, which he updates regularly and clusters in family groups, with brothers, husbands, wives, and others grouped around the same pole. He personally delivers banners to the families of soldiers no longer in combat, a personal touch that is the hallmark of his service. CharStyle:endbullet>n