CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq, March 6, 2007 — Few children know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Often the childhood fantasies revolve around being a cowboy, astronaut or president.
But newly-promoted Sgt. Maj. Clarence Miller Jr., knew exactly what he wanted to be... a soldier.
"Since probably the sixth grade, I knew that I was going into the military," said the native of Pensacola, Fla.
It was sort of a family affair.
"I would see relatives in the military who always seemed to have it together and have direction in their lives," Miller said. "It never seemed like they were scraping pennies like other people back home. It inspired me."
From the beginning, he knew what field he wanted to go into. Although the family members who were in the military were in the Army, he wasn't sold on which branch in the military to go into. His choice of a job made the choice for him.
"I went to the Marine Corps first and requested communications," Miller said. "They told me that my job was to be a fighter first, and they would make the choice of what job I would have.
The Army, on the other hand, had given him his choice. In 1984, a month and a half after graduating high school, he left for the basic training.
As far as he was concerned, it was the only option.
"I was from a small town and neither one of my parents had much of an education," Miller said. "My father's father died when he was about eight, and he was the oldest. He quit school to help the family. My mother quit school in 11th grade. They were just proud of me for graduating from high school. They never expected me to go to college. In fact, it was never really mentioned to me.
"So, I never really had any intention to go to college. I really just wanted to be a soldier," he added.
When his childhood dreams finally came true, it wasn't quite bliss. He said his mom wasn't keen on him being away. Since the beginning, she had a hard time letting go of her son and pressured him to come home.
After his mother had some health problems, including open-heart surgery, Miller made the hard decision to get out of the military.
"I have strong family ties," he said. "She needed me."
It didn't last long, although he felt he was needed at home, his family understood that his heart was still with the Army.
"I love the institution and taking care of soldiers," he said. "It gives me the chance to counsel people without being a psychologist and I truly enjoy it. From the beginning, it was my intention to stay in and retire."
The conflict of heart was resolved by a conversation with his father.
"My father sat me down and told me that I needed to start living for me and not for others," Miller said.
A year and a half after leaving active duty, with his family and God on his side, he was back in the military.
It is a good thing he did, too. He met his bride, Alcer, in the Army, and they have now been married for 12 years. They have two sons.