Vietnam veteran from Montgomery Co. reflects on meaning of Memorial Day

Vietnam veteran Wayne Miller sings the national anthem at a ceremony marking the anniversary since the dedication of the Montgomery County Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Rockville, Maryland. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Vietnam veteran Wayne Miller sings the national anthem at a ceremony marking the anniversary since the dedication of the Montgomery County Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Rockville, Maryland. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
The memorial in Rockville, Maryland was built last year. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
The memorial in Rockville, Maryland was built last year. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
 One of the names engraved in the memorial is that of Tommy Moffitt, who was killed in action in Vietnam, at the age of 18. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
One of the names engraved in the memorial is that of Tommy Moffitt, who was killed in action in Vietnam, at the age of 18. (WTOP/Michelle Basch) (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
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Vietnam veteran Wayne Miller sings the national anthem at a ceremony marking the anniversary since the dedication of the Montgomery County Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Rockville, Maryland. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
The memorial in Rockville, Maryland was built last year. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
 One of the names engraved in the memorial is that of Tommy Moffitt, who was killed in action in Vietnam, at the age of 18. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
Memorial Day has a powerful meaning for a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran from Montgomery County, Maryland, who, for decades, has been helping other veterans like him.

Wayne Miller joined the Marine Corps in 1968.

“I was wounded July 4, 1969, when mortar rounds hit all around me and I lost my left leg above the left knee …(had) several shrapnel wounds from my head down to my toe, and spent several months in the hospital recuperating in Philadelphia Naval Hospital,” he said.

Miller went on to earn master’s degrees in special education and social work, and joined the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989. He is now director of the VA’s Silver Spring Vet Center.

“I’ve been there for 30 some years … providing mental health counseling and readjustment (for) veterans leaving war and coming home to civilian life and their families. Being a combat-wounded Vietnam veteran, I have a lot in common with a lot of the veterans that come home, and also the unseen wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

The center also helps with military sexual trauma, family marital issues, bereavement counseling, benefits assistance and employment assistance.

One of Miller’s friends from high school, Tommy Moffitt, was killed in action in Vietnam. He was just 18.

“He was one of the first Marines to be buried at sea, from Vietnam … his brothers are good friends of mine also,” Miller said.

Moffitt’s name is one of about 130 engraved on the Montgomery County Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Rockville, and when it was dedicated last year, Miller had the honor of saying Moffitt’s name in remembrance.

“My thing is to say their names, because every time you say their name you keep their memory alive, and that’s what Memorial Day is. It’s not going out and buying cars and beds and having a day off work,” he said.

At this year’s ceremony at the memorial wall, a few days before Memorial Day, Miller sang the national anthem.

Read more here about Moffitt and other service members with connections to Montgomery County who died in the Vietnam War.

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