FORT BENNING, GA – “Mr. Johnny Miller was part of the village that raised me from a junior enlisted Soldier to the non-commissioned officer (NCO) I am today,” said 194th Armored Brigade Staff Sgt. Richard Funches.
The Fort Benning career counselor shared how he met Martin Army Community Hospital’s Provider Resiliency Instructor Johnny Miller, back in 2016.
“He taught this young specialist how to be a better man,” said Funches. “He has always shown me that a person doesn’t have to be loud or abrasive to be effective. Johnny Miller showed me a better way to lead. He was always consistent and fair. Truly a remarkable spirit.”
It is obvious Miller’s impact goes far beyond his role in the hospital. Unfortunately for BMACH, Miller is retiring after 13 years of service. His was the friendly face welcoming you with an ever-present smile during hospital orientation, mandatory for all new hires.
“I always try to lay out the red carpet for the new employees,” said Miller. “I want them to know that they are welcomed to the organization … and whatever concerns they have, don’t hesitate to say something.”
The second youngest of 10 children grew up in Marion, S.C. His parents started out as sharecroppers of tobacco and cotton. Miller followed suit, working sunup to sundown through high school, from late May to late August.
“It was very hard work,” said Miller. “Working in the tobacco fields meant planting, harvesting and selling at the market.”
Miller knew he wanted more so he joined the Army in 1978.
“There was not a lot to do in my hometown,” said Miller. “I did not want to go to college right then and a lot of my friends were enlisting in the military.”
Enlisting as a medic gave Miller the opportunity to travel outside the U.S. for the first time in his life.
“I was stationed at Camp Humphreys [in Pyeongtaek]. I was there for 13 months. I loved being in Korea. I loved experiencing the culture and some of the food,” said Miller. “My favorite memory was when we all had three-piece suits and tuxedos tailor-made for a unit ball. This was 1981 and I still have the tuxedo.”
The military not only broadened Miller’s horizons, but also helped break down barriers for the people Miller encountered.
“I went on a guided tour in South Korea … and on the tour at this specific site, there were several people in the park,” said Miller. “There was this old lady who must have been in her nineties. She came up and took her finger and rubbed it on my arm.”
Fast forward a couple of decades. After retiring from his second stint in the Army in 1998, Miller started working at BMACH in January of 2009. His genuinely nice personality … along with his dual master’s degrees in both practical and counseling ministry as well as human resources … made Miller the perfect coordinator of the Provider Resiliency Program. In this role, Miller helped combat provider fatigue, compassion fatigue and stress by offering training, personal rapport and referrals to such resources as the chaplain and behavioral health.
“I think it’s a terrible thing when you cannot laugh on the job,” said Miller. “My most memorable moments were having fun with my hospital education department (HED) family. I feel really blessed to have had that opportunity. I have met some great people at BMACH. I will miss the people the most.”
Just because Miller is retiring, doesn’t mean he is done giving back.
“I plan to do projects around the church, such as flooring,” said Miller. “I am the pastor of the church and I just thank God to the utmost for the opportunity to get the chance to retire and be in good health at retirement. That is a celebration all by itself.”
The soft-spoken Southerner is too modest, so colleague Dexter Mons, BMACH Nursing Educator MSN, praised the couple’s extensive community involvement.
“The Millers have fed, clothed and ministered to the homeless, to include children, for ten years,” shared Mons. “Mr. Miller and his wife have served over 1600 homeless population living here in Columbus. He is a true, humble, dedicated servant leader as he funded this outreach through personal means.”
Miller has no intention of leaving Columbus, which has been home since 1996. He will tend to his garden of fruits, vegetables, flowers and palm trees.
“Gardening is one of my favorite things to do,” said Miller. “I can be extremely tired after work, but when I go work in the garden, energy comes from somewhere.”
Miller also plans to indulge in his other hobbies of beekeeping and woodworking, both of which he discovered through trial and error, have rather steep learning curves.
“My daughter and son knew I always wanted to tend honey bees, so they enrolled me in a class and bought all the equipment for my birthday three years ago,” said Miller. “I have been stung several times because I was not wearing the head netting properly. It hurts! But I love taking care of the bees.
“The coolest thing I made from wood is a record and album chest for my son. I have never made anything like that before. I had a lot of fun doing it and I really surprised myself.”
Most importantly Miller plans to take his wife Carolyn traveling out west to bask in nature’s beauty, mountains and open skies.
“I want to travel and see more of the Rockies, Oregon, Washington coast and someday Alaska. There are so many God created wonders.”