Since Veterans Day is being celebrated today, I wanted to interview a Manchester Veteran. I asked around for the person who was the organizer of the Veterans Day Parade and Ceremony at Manchester Memorial Hospital, and I was referred to Colonel Kipp Miller. I had the honor of having coffee with a true war hero who has devoted his life to serving his country. Like many veterans, when I asked about the awards that he had received for heroism and meritorious service, he didn't want to talk about it.
Timothy Becker: Colonel, how long were you a member of armed forces?
Kipp Miller: I originally enlisted in the Air Force in July of 1965 and transferred to the Army in April of 1966. I served for 36 years, 10 months and 17 days.
Timothy Becker: How did you get involved with helping to organize the Veterans Day parade in Manchester?
Kipp Miller: The Veterans Council of Manchester, which was formed in 1927, is responsible for the event. I serve as Recording Secretary, Benton Osgood is our President. The Council is an umbrella organization that includes delegates from the veterans organizations in Manchester: the Army and Navy Club,the VFW, the Maine Corp League, the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans, and the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Timothy Becker: How did the parade and ceremony get started?
Kipp Miller: After World War I it was decided by local officials and organizations that the war memorial would be a hospital. In 1919 construction began, and in1920 the hospital was dedicated to all Manchester residents that died in World War I. In 1970 the hospital was rededicated to veterans of all wars.
Timothy Becker: I understand that the event is always held on November 11th. Tell me about the parade and ceremony.
Kipp Miller: The parade starts at the American legion on Legion Drive about 10:45 am and goes down Main St. and Haynes St. to Manchester Memorial Hospital. The ceremony includes an opening prayer, lowering of the Colors, placing of the wreaths, the playing of “Taps” by a bugler and “Amazing Grace” by a piper, the reciting of the poem “In Flanders Field” and a benediction.
Timothy Becker: I understand that your family has been in military service?.
Kipp Miller: My father was a fighter pilot in the Air Force, my mother was in the Army Nurse Corp, and my brother was a Marine.
Timothy Becker: How did you get involved in military service?
Kipp Miller: One month after I graduated from Manchester High School in 1965 I volunteered for the Air Force. I was assigned to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. After basic I was offered the USAF Preparatory School and the Air Force Academy. That would have meant five years of schooling and I hated school. I turned down the offer and I was transferred as a Third Class Airman to the reserves. I started to hitchhike home from Denver to St. Louis. I was so cold that I used all the money that I had for a bus ticket to Hartford.
Timothy Becker: Well how did you get back into active duty?
Kipp Miller: I decided to to transfer from the Air Force and enlist in the Army. The basic training was much easier the second time. After five weeks, some of us were asked to take a test for officer training school. I said no. I was sent for individual training as a (FDC) fire direction control computer. We worked with maps, slide rules and protractors to determine the azimuth, elevation and number of charges to direct artillery fire. I was assigned to the sergeant missile program.
Timothy Becker: After turning down the opportunity to be an officer twice, how did you get a commission?
Kipp Miller: One day I was told to report to the Major. I thought that I was in trouble. This was 1966 and the Vietnam War was ramping up. The branch specific OCS program was expanded to 23 weeks and new Lieutenants were needed. I was qualified for OCS and I was offered a choice of armor, signal corp, engineers, infantry and artillery. I was ready to leave Fort Sill so I said OK. I flipped a coin to pick between armor or engineers. It came up heads and I went to Fort Knox , Kentucky to Armor and Cavalry.
Timothy Becker: What did you do in the Cavalry?
Kipp Miller: I was commissioned and was given orders to go to Fort Waters, Texas for primary and advanced training on rotary wing aviation. I became a Huey pilot in B Company, 229 Assault Helicopter Battalion, of the First Cavalry Division of Air Mobil. I was sent to Vietnam to fly troops in an out of combat areas. I took fire many times. Once I had a governor fail in flight and I crash landed and rolled the helicopter over.
Timothy Becker: What did you do after the War?
Kipp Miller: I went to UCONN on the G.I bill and joined the National Guard. I worked full time for the Guard. I started as a Captain and rose to the rank of Colonel. I retired in 2002. I could have stayed and been promoted to Brigadier General, but at that time there were no command positions available, and that is what I loved to do.
Timothy Becker: Would you recommend military service to a 18 year-old?
Kipp Miller: You can't do what I did now. You would need a four year degree. It is worth the experience. I learned a lot about myself and how to take opportunities when they come up.
Through a separate source, I found out that Kipp Miller was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions on March 11, 1969 in Vietnam, for flying his Huey UH-1H though heavy enemy fire to extract the wounded and call in fire on enemy rocket and mortar sites.