AUSTIN (KXAN) –“I’m not a hero. A hero, to me, are those who paid the ultimate price, those who were wounded and who came back injured in body and mind and those that were in harm’s way a lot longer than I was.”
Many would disagree with Miller Hicks, saying the veteran, who served two tours of duty throughout his lifetime, is in fact a hero.
Hicks was a 19-year-old Navy ensign who served in the Pacific Ocean on D-Day. Hicks was not in Normandy, France during the decisive invasion that foreshadowed the end of World War II, but he said it resonated with all members of the armed forces nonetheless.
“I think it was kind of after the fact. We didn’t realize what the massive size of that thing was,” Hicks said. “That invasion was huge. So it never entered our mind that it would be that big and that important.”
D-Day was the largest military air, land and sea operation in American history. The invasion in Normandy took more than 5,000 ships, 11,000 planes and more than 150,000 service men to storm the beach of Normandy.
Hicks’ served his first tour of duty as an ensign for the Navy Reserve aboard the destroyer USS Wilkes in the Pacific during World War II, his second tour was as a lieutenant for the Navy Reserve at the naval air stations in Opa Locka, Florida and El Centro, California during the Korean War. After retiring from service, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to chair the Presidential Advisory Committee on Small Businesses and named national chairman of the Independent Business Coalition by President George H.W. Bush.
Hicks was also chosen to be a member of the presidential delegation to Normandy for the dedication of the Battle of Normandy Museum. This was an invitation, which he said, took him by surprise.
“One day, in the office, I got a call from his aide and he said, ‘the president wants you to be a member of his presidential delegation going to Normandy to dedicate the Battle of Normandy Museum,'” Hicks said. “And I thought, ‘that sounds great.'”
When Hicks arrived in Normandy for the ceremony he met an admiral whom he had heard a lot about during his time in service – Admiral John Buckley. Although Hicks had never served under Buckley, the fact that he was the only other naval officer caused him some confusion.
“He though I was being sent along as an aide,” Hicks said. “He’d always say, ‘Hicks where’s my luggage?’ and ‘Hicks, where are we supposed to go?'”
Ultimately Buckley warmed up to Hicks, insisting he remained by his side at all times. Hicks said they exchanged a particularly emotional moment during the rainy opening ceremony of the museum.
“He looked up at me and I saw tears rolling down his eyes,” Hicks said. “He said, ‘Miller, will you do something for me?’ and it’s the first time he ever called me by my first name. So I said, ‘admiral, I’d damn near do anything for you.'”
Today, Hicks lives in the Westminster Retirement Community, where 25 percent of the residents are veterans. He formed the Westminster Veterans Corps as a way for residents to share stories and camaraderie.