Anytime a soldier goes to war, the possibility exists that they will be severely wounded or even killed in action, but I don’t think anyone expected the events of September 19, 1863. It was the middle of the Civil War, and Jacob C Miller was a private in Company K, 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment. The company was fighting in the Battle of Chickamauga near Brock Field in southeastern Tennessee. One of the fastest ways to “get dead” is to get shot in the head. There is something about a bullet hitting the skull that puts an end to life pretty quickly…most of the time, anyway.
Maybe it was the type of bullets used in the Civil War, but no matter how it happened, I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I say that living after taking a bullet between the eyes was a miracle. Jacob C Miller was just such a miracle man. After being shot, Miller crumpled to the ground. I’m sure everyone thought it was over, but Miller said later that he could hear the words of his captain, who said, “It’s no use to remove poor Miller, for he is dead.” The company, believing he was dead, moved on. Now, just imagine the shock when Miller became conscious and found himself alone. He raised up in a sitting position. Curiosity caused him to feel his wound. Clearly there was damage done. Miller’s left eye was out of place, and he tried to place it back, but had to move the crushed bone back together, or as near together as he could first. Once the eye was in its proper place, he bandaged the eye the best he could with his bandana. Then he began the journey to get help. Miller struggled to follow his company, until he was finally picked up by a liter party, and taken for treatment.
When he was taken to the doctors, and they examined him, they said that they were able to see his pulsating brain quite clearly. That said, we know that the bullet wasn’t somehow stopped by his skull. It had actually entered the brain lining, or at least into the skull bone. At that point, nothing was done with the bullet, and Miller was sent home to Logansport, Indiana. Doctors there were hesitant to remove the bullet, because they thought Miller would die, and somehow, he seemed to be functioning ok with the bullet in place. In the end they did remove about a third of the bullet, and Miller went on to live his life. Nevertheless, more pieces of the bullet simply fell out decades later. It was as if his body just rejected the foreign pieces of lead and moved them out of his head. It was a good thing, because the pressure on the bullet fragments during times of illness caused his to become delirious. Once the fragments fell out, that stopped.
Miller was born on August 4, 1840, in Bellevue, Ohio. He was shot on September 19, 1863, at the age of 23 years. Private Jacob C Miller lived an amazing 54 years with an open wound in his head. The wound never fully healed, but did not fully penetrate his skull, and apparently the brain area did close over, and caused no damage to his brain. He died January 13, 1917, in Omaha, Nebraska at the age of 76 years. No cause of death is mentioned, but I guess we know it wasn’t a gunshot wound to the head.
Veteran’s Day is a day about sacrifice and honor, duty and dedication, war and peace, but the day cannot pass for me without thoughts of my dad, and how much I miss him. I know I am not alone in these thoughts, because my mom and sisters also miss him, as well as the rest of our family. Still, no one who has lost a loved one who was a veteran, whether to war or after, can pass this day without thoughts of their loved ones. I think of my Grandpa Byer, my uncles Ted Byer, Cliff Byer, Larry Byer, Jim Wolfe, and my cousin, Larry Wolfe…all gone now, but not lost in war, thankfully. I think of those who, in World War II, couldn’t serve in combat, and so they served at home in the shipyards as builders and Rosie the Riveters, like my Aunt Ruth, Aunt Laura, and Uncle Bill, who couldn’t go because of a hernia and flat feet. And I think of the loved ones…too many to list here…who have fought and returned, and those who continue to fight to secure our nation, and stop terrorist acts all over the globe.
Theirs is a sacrifice beyond measure, a debt we cannot repay. Every day of their service they work, without knowing if they will return to their loved ones, or if this will be the day that a bullet, rocket, or bomb will have their name on it. They go to work knowing fear, as if it was their closest friend, and yet knowing that it is no friend at all. They have to bite back that fear and do their job…because it is needed…they are needed…because without them we are a nation unprotected. Most of us go to bed at night, secure in what the next day will bring, because we live in a nation where freedom belongs to everyone. Nevertheless, we must remember that it is not free. Over the years, our nation has lost so many young people to war. They were really our hope for the future. They were people full of promise. People with plans and dreams…all gone now.
War is a horrible thing, and none of us really want to engage in it. Still, evil exists out there, and it does its very best to reek havoc upon the world. If we do nothing, many innocent people will die. And so God created soldiers. He knew that they would have to be people of honor and dedication, with a strong sense of duty and love for their fellow man. They would have to be people of courage and bravery…able to bite back the fear that dwells all around them. God knew the kind of people they would have to be…Heroes. And that is what every veteran is, was, and always will be…a hero. Today is Veteran’s Day. It is a day to honor those who have given so much to keep us free. Thank you all for your great service. God bless you…everyone of you.