Miller recognized for service to American Legion baseball
Sunday was George Miller’s day in Beaufort.
A ceremony at Beaufort High School’s baseball stadium was devoted to honoring Miller’s two decades as athletic director at American Legion Post 9 and the face of Beaufort Osprey baseball.
Miller received a plaque, a bouquet for his wife Carol and a framed South Carolina Senate resolution made in his honor. But all of that took less time than an effort to list his military decorations, community contributions and accomplishments.
“George is the most humble, gentle, truly nice person I have ever known,” Post 9 commander Chuck Lurey said. “In my view, he is what all of us young and old should strive to be.”
Many said Sunday they have never heard Miller speak ill of another person and that his favorite phrase is, “I’ll be right there, buddy.”
“If you want to be happy for a day, eat a steak. If you want to be happy for three days, buy a car. If you want to be happy for a week, go on a cruise,” Coker College baseball coach Dave Schmotzer.
“If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, be like George Miller.”
Post 9 drafted a biography of Miller that commander Chuck Lurey read to the audience. It may be difficult to capture the complete story of a consummate volunteer, but Lurey gave a synopsis of what was read May 10 on the Senate floor:
Miller was born in Fairmont, Ind., in 1936. He joined the Marine Corps in 1956 after graduating high school and completing basic training and engineering school. He was a certified heavy equipment operator, building schools, airstrips and bridges.
While stationed in Korea, he served as an advisor to South Korean Marines while building orphanages and participating in “other civic works in local villages and towns.”
In 1968, Miller was sent to Vietnam, after which he was stationed at Camp Lejeune, Indianapolis and Parris Island.
He retired from the military in 1979 with a list of recognitions that included the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Cross of Gallantry with Palm and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.
Miller earned a degree in building trades in 1981 and continued a career of civil service until 2001.
In 1997, he took over as athletic director for Post 9 and by most accounts was responsible for soliciting and collecting donations for the baseball program. He established the American Legion golf tournament in 1998 to finance college scholarships for local graduates.
Since 2009, he has helped some 10,000 young men pursue a college education through American Legion’s baseball scholarship program with funds in excess of $200,000.
The resolution concludes, “Be it resolved by the Senate that the members of the South Carolina Senate, by this resolution, recognize and honor George Miller, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, for 30 years of military service and decades of other significant and extensive service to the Palmetto State and Beaufort County community. Be it further resolved that a copy of this resolution be presented to George Miller.”
Lurey added in his biography, “George is the most unforgettable character I’ve ever met. … His civic works includes volunteering and working with Wounded Warriors, Veterans Homes, AMVETS, American Legion, VFW, Disabled Americans, the Purple Heart Association, his church and American Legion baseball.”
Current athletic director Bob Shields said he feels an obligation to run the baseball program with the same amount of vigor as his predecessor.
“He has touched so many lives in baseball. He is Mr. Baseball in Beaufort to many. He played baseball and softball all of his life in the Marines and in Beaufort County. He coached his sons’ teams and other youth teams,” Shields said.
“He has a legacy that needs to be fulfilled. I’ve been in Legion 9 for five years. When I first came, this post was relying on one man. It was George. I don’t want to diminish the efforts of others, but George ran Legion baseball.”
At 82, Shields said, Miller still serves as the primary liaison between Post 9 and veteran service organizations.
“It is only in recent years that our post has been able to attract more active members and we now have a multitude of programs. We’re now able to help George more, but he still does the lion’s share of the work,” he said. “Post 9 will always owe George and Carol a tremendous debt for their service to baseball, Post 9 and the Beaufort community.”
Miller has been reading the American Legion Code of Sportsmanship before every home game for most of two decades, but the emotion of Sunday’s ceremony rendered him speechless.
The alumni game went on nonetheless, and Wilson summoned some words minutes later.
“This was humbling, to say the least,” he said. “I hope this continues. This is what we do as veterans. We help each other. It’s veterans helping veterans and I hope that we can continue that through Legion baseball.”