Thursday, June 14, 2007

Scott A. Miller dies 'of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire'

Scott Miller had cowboy style and a heart "as big as Wyoming."

The 20-year-old Casper soldier, who died Saturday while on foot patrol in the Iraqi town of Baqubah, was a burly country boy who liked hunting and good-natured pranks.

"He had great big brown eyes and clear from the back of the room, when his eyes really started sparkling or twinkling, I knew he had thought of something that had to do with good-humored mischief," said Janet Dawson, Miller's senior year English teacher at Natrona County High School.

In his short life, Miller made a strong impression on Dawson and others.

"My heart's just broken," she said.

"I know other people are suffering even more. I think it is important for the family to know that people they don't even know well loved him and miss him."

Miller had a smile that lit up the room and "a heart just as big as Wyoming," Dawson recalled.

"He was also a good storyteller," she said with a laugh. "He always had a good reason why he was late from lunch or why his paper wasn't ready yet."

Miller had a massive presence but was still humble and helpful with his classmates.

"He commanded the room when he walked in," Dawson said.

Miller enlisted in the Army in July 2004 after graduating from Natrona County High School. After training at Fort Benning, Ga, he was assigned to the Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis, Wash. His brigade deployed to Iraq in June 2006.

Dawson doesn't recall her student being fearful of going to war.

"He talked about pride in his country, and wanting to do the right thing by his country," she said. "He wanted to be in Wyoming eventually, this was his home, he wanted to come back here. But I think he felt it was his duty to go serve."

Mitch Hill went to Natrona County High School with Miller and took several classes with him.

"Everybody is going to miss him," Hill said. "I know I will. He will be one of those kids who will be missed and remembered forever. He gave his life to protect ours."

Miller liked to pull pranks on his buddies, but Hill didn't mind.

"I don't know, I kinda enjoyed it," he said. "I never had a brother and that's how he treated me, like a younger brother."

Hill remembered his friend as a cowboy at heart, who wore Cinch jeans and boots to school everyday.

"He pulled off the perfect cowboy," Hill said.

After Miller deployed to Iraq, Hill would keep in touch with him through the social networking site Miller described Iraq as a different world, his friend recalled.

"He really didn't like being in Iraq, but who would?" Hill said. "But he knew that is what he went into the military to do. As far as I know, he liked being a soldier."

Miller's welding instructor and sophomore football coach recalled him as a hard worker who got along with his classmates.

"He was a good athlete, worked hard, had a good work ethic," said Scott Schutte.

Other students liked to be around Miller, Schutte said.

"He had a good sense of humor," Miller's former coach said. "He had kind of a neat grin when he'd smile."

That smile also made an impression on Melissa Henry, who taught Miller's speech class.

"He always had that little curled up grin, that little mischievous corner of your mouth," Henry said.

Henry remembers Miller being shy and polite in her class. But he could also be a prankster.

"I remember he sat toward the back of the room," she said. "His group, he could always make them laugh. You never knew what he was up to. He was never mean. He was a good-spirited kid."

Brit Shrebe knew Miller her whole life and said he enjoyed the outdoors and hunting. She remembered him as an easygoing country boy.

"He was definitely a cowboy," she said. "That was just who Scott was."

From the Jackson Hole Star Tribune