By Sherry Kughn
Staff Sergeant Zachary Miller, who is formerly of Centre, was humbled and proud to have had a key role in the funeral of Sen. John McCain that took place on Sat., Sept. 1, in the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He performed the role of casket team leader for the soldiers from various branches of the military who served as pallbearers as they carried McCain’s flag-draped casket down the majestic aisle of the cathedral and walked behind those who officiated at the service.
Miller could be seen quietly giving orders to the soldiers and other representatives of the various branches of the military who served in the prestigious 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. They placed the casket onto the bier at the front of the cathedral before solemnly and precisely walking to the pews reserved for them. Another soldier, the Officer in Charge, oversaw the team but did not carry the casket.
“McCain’s life and legacy are inspiring to all Americans,” Miller said. “I had an immense amount of pride to represent the Army and do my part for the McCain family.
Miller graduated in 2009 from Cherokee County High School and enrolled at Gadsden State Community College. While there, he earned a certification as an emergency management technician and then joined the U.S. Army in 2011, attending basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., where he graduated as an infantryman. He was stationed at Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany, and then at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Afterward, he was selected to join the 3rd Regiment and began working at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. It is the base where members of the military serve the families of veterans to be buried at Arlington Cemetery.
Since March of 2017, Miller has helped conduct funerals at Arlington. He and his fellow members of the 3rd regiment conduct about four funerals a day. During his time there, he has met many dignitaries, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, two of those present at McCain’s funeral. Still, being chosen as the team leader at McCain’s funeral service was a huge honor for him.
“The event was very overwhelming,” Miller said. “It was a privilege to do my part to contribute to Sen. McCain for being a senator and a fellow veteran.”
Miller follows generations of military men in his family. His grandfather and great-grandfather on his mother’s side of the family were in the military. “With this rich background of service,” Miller said, “it was always a thing that we talked about as a family. I knew after graduation that I wanted to join and do my part in the war on terror.”
Miller’s grandmother is the late Joyce Russell of Piedmont. Many of his aunts, uncles, and cousins who live in Piedmont; and his parents, Becky and Frank Miller, live in Centre. He has a late brother, Ethan, and a younger brother, Eli, who is a college student. Miller and his wife, Taylor, who is also from Centre, have a two-year-old daughter, Emma. They live in Fredericksburg, Va. Miller said he would recommend to young people that they give service to their country through the military. He describes the training and experiences as life-changing events.
“It comes with great pride and honor to carry out a legacy that all of our forefathers have done,” Miller said. Whether a veteran’s funeral is carried out in the national spotlight or conducted in private, members of the military, like Miller, are there to serve those who have risked their lives for democracy and freedom. Miller is one of many local residents who serve and protect us, and there are hundreds more who have served and protected us in the past.