Lloyd Miller was 21 when he received a draft notice in 1951, during the Korean War.
He and his two brothers, Harlan, 25, and Don, 19, decided to enlist in the Air Force because that branch of the military allowed family members to be stationed together.
The Air Force base was too full at the time to take any more men, so they joined the Army instead, he said.
All three still ended up being assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, though Harlan was sent to Korea immediately. The other two went to Fort Riley in Kansas for basic training, which Harlan had already completed before serving in Germany near the end of World War II.
Since they looked very different and Miller is a common last name, no one realized Lloyd and Don were brothers, and they were allowed to be stationed together.
After receiving their assignment in Japan, they were boarding a ship to Korea when they were notified by the Red Cross that Harlan had been killed by a landmine.
"That's when they kind of found out that we were brothers," Miller said. "It was quite a shock when we found out, but there wasn't anything we could do at that time because orders were cut, and we were already in line to get on the ship when the Red Cross found us."
There was a lot of action in the fall of 1951, and many men were lost. The others in the division knew of Harlan's death, and Lloyd felt they protected him and Don for that reason.
"The whole 1st Cavalry Division was hit so hard. We didn't have that many men left, so the whole division was transferred to Japan," he said.
They were in Japan a year, doing amphibious and airlift training before being sent back to Fort Riley for more training — this time in chemical, biological and radiological warfare.
Part of that training involved witnessing a nuclear bomb test in Yucca Flats in Nevada.
"We went out early in the morning and got into trenches about 6 feet deep and waited for the blast," he said. "It created such a vacuum that there was quite an after-blast, so we had to stay down until it went back to ground zero."
The testing remained secret for many years, and it wasn't until sometime around the 1970s that it became clear that many men from the troops involved with the bomb testing were dying of cancer.
Don died of liver cancer 12 years after the blast, at age 33.
"At that time we knew nothing about it, that that's what caused it," said Lloyd, who also has cancer that he said is connected to the radiation from the blast.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2008, and colon cancer in 2017.
Lloyd said he often wonders if he and his brothers did the right thing by enlisting, even though they would have been drafted anyway.
He said younger men often thank him for his service, which is a change from the time period when Korea and Vietnam vets returned from overseas.
"They didn't appreciate what the GIs did that were in Vietnam," Miller said. "There was no welcome for them when they came home. There wasn't for us either, but we weren't treated the way the Vietnam GIs were. At that time there was a feeling that the Army shouldn't have been there."
Name: Lloyd Miller
Branch of service: U.S. Army
Years of service: 1951-1954
Despite his misgivings, his daughter Connie Uffalussy was inspired by his service and became a nurse for the Army Reserves.
"When I was promoted to captain, my father congratulated me by giving me a kiss and hug," she said. "Then, true to my father's sense of humor, he said, 'I've never kissed an officer before.'"
Connie's daughter Kaitlyn is now serving in the Air Force and stationed in Savannah, Georgia.
When she was deployed to Afghanistan, Kaitlyn served under the 1st Cavalry, which was her grandfather's division in Korea. She gave him her 1st Cavalry patch when she returned, and wanted her grandfather to be her first salute as an officer when she was commissioned after 16 years of service.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented her from doing so.
"My father is a hero for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren," Uffalussy said.
Contact Emily Crisman at email@example.com.
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