OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Both strangers and friends lined the streets waving flags and shedding tears on Monday to honor Private First Class Cale Miller.
The body of the 23-year-old soldier was brought home for burial on Monday, with a patriotic procession to welcome him and his family.
"I feel compelled to be here," said spectator Denise Dunn. "I don't know Cale, but the emotions were overwhelming to just stand here and be a witness to this."
Miller died May 24 after he was wounded in Afghanistan during an enemy attack. He was a member of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. He was also a 2007 graduate of Olathe Northwest High School and attended the University of Kansas and Baker University.
The Department of Defense said Miller's unit was attacked with an improvised explosive device. This was Miller's first tour and he had only been there for about two months.
"It's very emotional, but we're here for them," said Amy Gipson, a member of Cale's family. "We're trying to stay as strong as possible for them."
The "Community4Cale" processional route included the Patriot Guard and an Olathe fire and police motorcade. The route began at New Century Airport in Gardner and passed along 151st St. in Olathe, where many people waited to show their respect. Community members were encouraged to bring flags and wear red, white and blue.
"It's just awesome to see the community coming together and paying kind of a silent respect, said Capt. Bill Schneider with the Olathe Fire Dept.
The following is the soldier's poignant obituary, written by PFC Cale Miller's mother, Deborah Collins.
Obituary for PFC Cale Clyde Miller
1988 - 2012
"The American Soldier does not fight because he hates who is in front of him. He fights because he loves who is behind him." Author unknown
PFC Cale Clyde Miller, 23, Overland Park, Kansas, was killed during a combat mission in Maiwand, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan on May 24, 2012. The Stryker vehicle he was driving was struck by an improvised explosive device. Cale was a member of the Bravo Company, 4th Battallion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) Fort Lewis, Washington.
Cale was a 2007 graduate of Olathe Northwest High School where he was a member of the football and track and field teams, and he played trumpet in the marching and jazz bands. Cale attended classes at the University of Kansas, Johnson County Community College and Baker University. He joined the Army in February of 2011, and graduated from One Source Unit Training for the Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia, before being assigned to his duty station at Fort Lewis.
Just like his actions every day, Cale's final act on earth was selfless and thinking only of others. His death was honorable, and his ultimate sacrifice saved the lives of two of his Battle Buddies that he loved like brothers. Cale was the lead Stryker in every combat mission that he had been in, a testament to the fact that he was "the best of the best." Cale's Battalion Commander told his mother that he was known as "everyone's protector."
His Sergeant who was with Cale on the combat mission, described how he had hand-selected Cale to be his Stryker unit's driver because he was "hands down, the best Stryker driver he had ever seen." Cale's attention to the details and care of his vehicle were unparalleled and he was constantly striving for ways to make his Stryker perform to an even higher level. More importantly, his Sergeant shared with his mother that Cale had an uncanny knack for knowing exactly the right thing to say at exactly the moment it was needed. He was the force that pulled his Sergeant and his squad mates through many difficult days and his sense of humor was unmatched. He was a fierce warrior on the battlefield and he will be missed by all of his Army Brothers.
On Memorial Day, a ceremony at the Kandahar Air Field was held and a flag that had flown over the White House, flew over Kandahar and was dedicated to Cale. His Sergeant received that flag and will be hand-delivering it to the family upon the Battalion's return to the United States at the end of their deployment.
As much as he loved the Army, Cale also loved his family. He was the love of his family's life. His sense of humor was his hallmark and he had the ability to see the light side of every situation. He often commented that his life was like a Seinfeld episode. Through all the hilarity, his relationships with his family were what he treasured most. Especially relevant to Cale was his relationship with his step-father who raised him, his "Dave", whom Cale had begun to emulate in his adult years. Dave is known for giving sound and practical advice and was the first one Cale called when he needed help. Cale once commented to his mother that although she might find it hard to believe, he was turning into the "Dave" of his group in the Army. His Battle Buddies turned to him frequently for advice, encouragement or simply a kind and funny word.
Cale had an unbreakable bond with his sister, Courtney, whom he called "Coco." She was the ying to his yang, and they balanced each other out. Cale fiercely loved his mother, Debbie, and spoke of her often to his Battle Buddies. She loves him "to the moon and back" as she said often when he was a young child.
His beloved three year old nephew Henry, or "Nenny" was a bright spot in Cale's life. Since being stationed in Washington, Cale always looked forward to Skyping with Henry and hearing all the latest news in Henry's life. Their last conversation centered on a certain bodily function that Henry found hilarious. So did "Unc."
Occupying a special place in Cale's life was his "Auntie," Pam Williamson, her husband Brett, and their three sons Jack, Avery and Cole. Auntie and Cale collaborated on many musical endeavors and his love of music came in large part from her. The boys were like his little brothers and were very special to him.
Cale leaves behind a grieving but celebrating family: his parents, David and Deborah Collins, Overland Park, his sister and brother-in-law, Courtney and Frank Barden, Olathe, and nephew, Henry Barden, Grandparents Carol Berry, Olathe, Bill and Paula Berry, Shell Knob, Missouri, Juanita Collins, Kearney, Missouri and many aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, family members, and Battle Buddies, far too numerous to name. You know who you are and you know Cale loved you. Also left behind was Sara, his Mach 1 Mustang, whom he worshipped, adored and waxed.
Cale will be returned home on Monday June 4. The City of Olathe will be celebrating his arrival by lining the streets with supporters. Route and time information is pending, please check with Penwell-Gabel Funeral Home, for more information. A visitation for friends and family to call upon the family will be held on Tuesday, June 5 from 5:00 to 8:00 pm at Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe. Finally, the Celebration of Cale's Life will be held on Wednesday, June 6 at 10:00 am at Grace United Methodist Church, Olathe. Private burial in Fort Leavenworth Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the USO to honor Cale's memory.
It is clear that Cale touched the lives of everyone he encountered. His absence on earth will be felt profoundly and he will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace, My Angel. Mommy loves you."