The passing of a hero...

Filed under: , , by: PearlsofHonor

The Medal of Honor (and just about every other award the US military can bestow upon a person) are what caught my attention when I first met Colonel Millett. Being military myself, I know more than most what it takes to earn even one of these honors and this guy could have filled a safe-deposit box with his ribbons and medals!

How could one man earn so many medals? How much effort, toil, blood and sacrifice has this man given for this nation? How many wars was he in? How many battles was he in? My God, do they make men any tougher than this one?

Later, I learned that he fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In the middle of 1941 (before Pearl Harbor), Millett actually deserted from the US Army to join the Canadian Army in order to be able to actively fight the rise of fascism and the Nazis. He was upset that FDR had pledged to keep America out of the war. He was court-martialed for desertion, but when his paperwork finally caught up with him after he'd fought his way across Italy, he was charged only a $52 dollar fine and promoted due to his uncommon acts of bravery. His life story reads like an action movie script writer's dream and his conviction in defense of the ideals of American freedom was unshakable. This man was the real life incarnation of that imaginary war hero I saw on TV and looked up to as a kid. I count myself lucky to have known him, in even the small way that our paths crossed.

Over the course of 10 years photographing the Pearl Harbor Survivors at various events in the San Diego area, every so often I would see Colonel Millett in attendance. Many events that Survivor and Medal of Honor Recipient John Finn attended would also bring out other Medal of Honors. Happy occasions such as John Finn's 95th birthday in 2004 were my favorites. In this photo, the Colonel's daughter Elizabeth helps him get his jacket straightened as he enters the party.

Here he is shown laughing with several other Medal of Honors during the party.

From left: Col. Millett, John W. Finn, One of John's friends from Kanehoe.
Back Row: Jay Vargas and John J. McGinty III

But of course, there are the many solemn memorials for the "Greatest Generation" as they leave us with memories and a duty to try to fill their shoes. Here, Colonel Millett was arriving aboard the USS Ronald W. Reagan (CVN-76) for the memorial services of a fellow Medal of Honor Recipient Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale.

Colonel Millett with Medal of Honor Recipients John Finn (seated) Walter D. Ehlers and John J. McGinty III. (right to left)

Just meeting this hero so many times left me wanting to chat with him whenever possible. Although he was seemingly a man of few words, his presence was to me, and to all who met him, larger than life.

Farewell, Lewis. May you be watched over in your rest and dream the dreams of true heroes.


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