WITCHITA FALLS, Texas --
Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agent Christopher Miller comes from a long line of soldiers beginning with the Civil War and including a grandfather who served as a bubble gunner in a B-26 bomber in World War II, five uncles in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and a cousin in Desert Storm.
Miller was one of nearly 200 people who participated in a 10-mile ruck march Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day, to honor veterans, past and present. Proceeds from the event, put on by the North Texas Veteran’s Relief Fund, go to the development of Base Camp Lindsey, a village of tiny houses for veterans, to be located off 1909 Old Windthorst Road.
Miller, a native of Augusta, Ga., walked with fellow Special Agents Josh Klepac and Chrissy Miller from Sheppard Air Force Base, “to take it all in, think about everyone that we’ve lost and everyone we’ve served with,” he said. Miller listed a number of vets he marched for, including his comrade, 1st Lt. Joseph Helton, who was killed in an Iraq on Sept 8, 2009, by an IED.
Over the past 13 years, Miller has been deployed five times, including Iraq and Afghanistan. He also walked for six OSI Special Agents lost in December 2015 in Afghanistan, from one an IED.
The march, he said, “is difficult and it’s emotional but carrying around 25 pounds on your back, marching with a bunch of friends” is good way to remember the people they served with and to “show their families that we think about them every single day.” He remains in contact with almost all of Helton’s immediate family.
“I’ve got tattoos of all the guys I listed. I have a number 6 on my arm for the six agents. When I look down, I do what I do because I don’t want that to happen again.”
Another soldier Miller marched for had post-traumatic stress disorder. “He had been on a number of deployments, and took his life but he was suffering with some things he just couldn’t handle.
“A bunch of guys get out and they can’t handle it. They can’t keep a job and can’t handle reintegrating into civilian life. It’s hard to adapt after combat and things like that. Being in a place with other veterans and a support group could benefit them.”
Members of the NTVRF hope that Base Camp Lindsey can make a difference for homeless veterans who may also suffer from PTSD.
There were 197 marchers who registered for the ruck march Saturday, according to Virginia Arellano, NTVRF board member and coordinator for the event. Five other people participated in a one mile walk of knowledge honoring homeless veterans and issues related to veteran suicide.
The 10-mile ruck march began at 9:30 a.m. at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and 7th Street. The march went all the way to just outside the SAFB main gate and back. At 9 p.m. there was a ceremony with a color guard, the singing of the National Anthem and a prayer.