Staff Sgt. Zachary Miller, who is formerly of Centre, was humbled and proud to have had a key role in the funeral of Sen. John McCain on Sept. 1 in Washington, D.C.
He performed the role of casket team leader for the soldiers from various branches of the military who served as pallbearers, carrying McCain’s flag-draped casket down the majestic aisle of the Washington National Cathedral and walking behind those who officiated at the service.
They placed the casket onto the bier at the front of the cathedral before solemnly and precisely walking to the pews reserved for them.
“McCain’s life and legacy are inspiring to all Americans,” Miller said. “I had an immense amount of pride to represent the Army and do my part for the McCain family.”
Miller, who now lives in Fredericksburg, Va., serves in the prestigious 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard.” It is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, serving since 1784.
The Old Guard serves as the official Army Honor Guard and escort to the President. Soldiers are responsible for conducting military ceremonies at the White House, the Pentagon, national memorials and elsewhere in Washington, D.C.
In addition, soldiers of the Old Guard maintain a 24-hour vigil at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
Miller graduated in 2009 from Cherokee County High School and enrolled at Gadsden State Community College. While there, he earned a certification as an emergency management technician.
He joined the U.S. Army in 2011, attending basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., where he graduated as an infantryman. He was stationed at Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany, and then at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
Afterward, he was selected to join the 3rd Regiment and began working at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. It is the base where members of the military serve the families of veterans to be buried at Arlington Cemetery.
Since March of 2017, Miller has helped conduct funerals at Arlington. He and his fellow Old Guard members conduct about four funerals a day.
During his time there, he has met many dignitaries, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Even so, being chosen as the team leader for McCain’s funeral service was a huge honor for him.
“The event was very overwhelming,” Miller said. “It was a privilege to do my part to contribute to Sen. McCain for being a senator and a fellow veteran.”
Miller follows generations of military men in his family. His grandfather and great-grandfather were in the military.
“With this rich background of service, it was always a thing that we talked about as a family,” Miller said. “I knew after graduation that I wanted to join and do my part in the war on terror.”
Miller and his wife, Taylor, who is also from Centre, have a 2-year-old daughter, Emma.
Sherry Kughn is a local freelance writer. Contact her at email@example.com.