A Tribute to a Quiet Hero

posted on September 8, 2011

Originally published February 2002 in American Rifleman.

It is likely that no American was un-affected by the cowardly terrorist attack in the skies at New York and at the Pentagon. When I write about the tragedy that occurred September 11, though, it is because of how it affected American Rifleman’s former Editorial Assistant Holly Ann Miller, my friend and, for several years, a very bright part of my daily life. Always smiling, cheerful and ready to help, Holly is having a hard time keeping that smile going now.

“Craig is missing. I just thought you should know,” was the phone message left by one of my co-workers. I was at a Weatherby writers conference at the Flying B Ranch in Kamiah, Idaho, desperately trying to figure out how I was going to get home to my wife and son. All of a sudden, my pathetic, selfish efforts to extricate myself from that situation lost all meaning and import.

“Craig” was Holly’s husband, Master Special Officer Craig J. Miller of the United States Secret Service’s Special Services Division. Craig left his Virginia home to do advance security work for President Bush’s then upcoming visit to the United Nations General Assembly. Craig never came home to his wife, two stepsons and twin then seven-month-old babies. Craig is still missing. He was staying at the Marriott WTC between the Twin Towers and was off-duty. Knowing the kind of man Craig was, there is little doubt in my mind that—in total disregard for his own personal safety—he went to help those hurt in the first attack. He was trained in emergency medicine by the Army and by the Secret Service, and he just wasn’t the kind of man to sit on the sidelines when there were people in danger or in need of assistance. The very qualities that made him a fine soldier, Secret Service officer, American, husband and father, likely cost him his life.

As many Americans feel today about those struck down on September 11, I wish I had spent more time with Craig and been able to know him better. But through my daily contact with Holly and occasional conversations with Craig, I learned a few things. Three loves in Craig’s life stand out in my mind. The first was his love of his family, the joy he brought into Holly’s life, the quiet pride he showed as he held one or both of his wiggling infants on his last visit to the office on one of his days off. The way his stepsons would stop crossing whatever line they were about to cross with a mere quiet look from Craig. They didn’t stop out of fear, but out of love and respect.

The second was his love of country. Again, Craig was quietly, deeply patriotic. He had served his country in the U.S. Army for nearly five years and served in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm—where he earned two Bronze Stars and the Kuwait Liberation Medal. And he was intensely proud of the American flag he wore on the sleeve of his uniform. For Craig, duty and country were more than words, they were how he lived his life.

The last love was of shooting. Craig, an NRA Member and an NRA Certified Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, was a lifelong hunter and shooter, and he even worked part-time at the NRA Range in Fairfax, Va., before being accepted into the Secret Service. He was a good and patient instructor, with a genuine passion for the shooting sports. He often stopped to chat with Holly and whomever else was around on his way to the range after work. More times than I can remember, Holly came to me for advice on what to buy him. She would ask if I thought she was getting a good deal, like on the H&K rifle she was making payments on as a surprise Christmas gift for Craig one year.

NRA is America—it is businessmen, firefighters, police officers, factory workers, secretaries, husbands, fathers and mothers. And yes, a Secret Service officer doing his job. It has been said that NRA is a family and, in particular, the staff of American Rifleman is an even smaller branch of that family. Holly has decided to stay at home with the four boys who need her most. She will be missed by all of us here in the office and by the thousands of NRA members who have been fortunate enough to have been helped by her.

There are thousands of stories like that of Craig Miller—including hundreds of other members of the extended NRA family lost on that terrible day. Our hearts and prayers go out to all affected by the murderous attack on September 11. For the many here at home and the many NRA members serving overseas “bringing justice” to those who perpetrated this attack on our Nation, remember Craig Miller and thousands like him who are no longer with us. America is worse off without them, but we must honor their memories and uphold the values they believed in to make sure the America of tomorrow can be a better place because of their sacrifices.


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