Annual event honors Purple Heart recipients amid pandemic


Carl Miller was critically wounded in the Vietnam War.

It is difficult for civilians to grasp the enormity of the sacrifice of patriots such as Carl Miller.

In February 1969, Miller was a 20-year-old Marine trying to make it through his first year in Vietnam. During foxhole watch duty while two fellow soldiers got some sleep, a Viet Cong grenade killed Miller’s two buddies and left him in pieces.

“It threw me right up in the air and severed my left arm,” said the Indialantic resident and now substitute teacher.

That wasn’t all, either. As he lay on the ground, a Viet Cong soldier sprayed him with bullets, hitting Miller on the legs and hips and left him for dead.

“My only thought was to stay alive,” Miller said.

After a quick-thinking medic bundled Miller and his arm together, the young soldier was shipped to Philadelphia Naval Hospital, where he was to spend a year of his life, including his 21st birthday, in a full body cast from the tip of his toes to the top of his head. Miraculously, doctors were able to save his arm, minus three inches of it, after three surgeries. 

As commander of Chapter 453 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Miller will now pay tribute to other soldiers who, like him, were awarded the Purple Heart, presented to Armed Forces members wounded or killed
in action. 

An annual event for the Space Coast Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Purple Heart Day celebrates the courage and bravery of 10 local Purple Heart recipients. In the past, the event drew hundreds of people, but not this year.

“We have to play by a different set of rules with COVID-19, and we are limiting the invitations this year to the recipients, direct family members and our own members,” Miller said.

Honored this year will be Marine Corps Corporal Cpl. Theodore A. Bowling, who was killed in action in Iraq, and wounded-in-action Vietnam veterans Charlie Brown, Don Clovis, Robert Faulkender, Richard Hanesworth, Patrick Keane, Francisco Odzimosky, David Rowland and Skip Taylor. Olin Faulkenberry, who was wounded in action in both the Vietnam and Korean wars, rounds out the 10 honorees.  

Each Purple Heart recipient will have his story told by another member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart during the event, scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9 at the Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island.