Traverse City Record-Eagle

History

May 28, 2012

Terry Wooten: WWII soldier's story told in poems

Jack Miller, a survivor of the Bataan Death March and a POW during World War II, won't be in any Memorial Day parades today. He died on March 28 at 92. For the past 10 years Jack was one of my best friends.

The poems are from my book "Lifelines," written in Jack's and his wife Leda's words. They were married for 70 years, and newlyweds when Jack sailed off to the Philippines. Leda waited for him to come home for four years.

To write the book we had to relive some nightmares. Jack said, "Years later I'd wake up all sweaty. The dreams were always accurate and matched reality. The nightmares stopped when I started talking about it."

Jack denied being a hero. He thought that word is used way too often. He was just trying to survive and ignore what reality was.

On the domestic front he deserved the highest award for citizenship. From talking to Jack's family it's clear he privately dealt with post-traumatic stress or "soldier's heart" for the rest of his life. He never let it define him. Jack's family enjoyed a good brother, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and uncle.

What impressed me most about Jack Miller was his humanity, his dignity, his lack of bitterness and his great sense of humor. He was a trickster, and that was his gift to all the people who knew him.

Jack Miller is buried at Clearwater Township Cemetery a couple miles southeast of Rapid City.

It's a beautiful little place tucked in the Rapid River Valley. He rests a few miles from his childhood home on Miller Road near Torch River Bridge.

The gun salute and taps are over. Jack can sleep peacefully on the other side of the world from Bataan, Camp Cabanatuan and Setetsu Steel Mill where he was a slave laborer for two years. He was lucky. Of the 25,000 young servicemen in the Philippines before Pearl Harbor, only 12,000 made it home.

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