For over 18 years, I have been friends with Marine Colonel, former Blue Angel, and Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 (VMFAT-101) Commanding Officer (managing all F-18 jets) Nathan Miller. I was blessed to witness his retirement ceremony aboard the USS Midway, after 27 years of service to our great country.
I have always been impressed that the military is FULL of the most intelligent, capable, dedicated, disciplined humans I have ever met. So, it was a treat to be with them in their own setting.
I was BLOWN AWAY to meet his distinguished friends and colleagues, which included Top Gun instructors, Blue Angel pilots, Generals and more. Contrary to what you might expect from hardened military folk, these were humble people with great senses of humor. Boy, can they talk smack. Fun fact: most call signs are NOT cool like you see in the movies – they are mostly busting chops!
Col. Miller addressing the audience
What was even more surprising to me was, despite knowing Nathan for almost two decades, he kept a lot of his accomplishments to himself. This speaks to his character.
For example, he never told me he was the first to launch a mission off the USS Constellation on March 21, 2003 for OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom).
I also learned that it is very rare to be a 3-year Blue Angel like Nathan was. He was the announcer, opposing solo and lead solo. A joke was made during the ceremony: “As solo, millions love you and 4 people hate you.” (the 4 guys are the diamond pilots) Furthermore, since their formation in 1946, only 272 pilots have earned spots on the team. Rare indeed!
It was noted that through his 24/7 efforts, the 101 has had the highest performance ratings, increased F-18 operational readiness and decreased training costs to the tune of $15 million. His training program promoted five Top Gun aviators and one WTI pilot (the marine version of Top Gun).
If Nate worked for a Fortune 1000 company, he would earn millions. Still, he never bragged about ANY of this.
Today, what I’m most impressed by is Nate’s leadership. He remembers everyone’s name. Their spouse’s name. Their children’s names. He cares. His “command climate” – i.e., “culture” – was unparalleled.
When his colleague read My Name is Old Glory by Howard Schnauber, there was not a dry tear on deck.
Here’s a heavily edited excerpt, but you can read the entire original poem here: http://militaryhonors.sid-hill.us/mil/oldglory.htm
“I am the flag of the United States of America. My name is Old Glory. I fly atop the world’s tallest buildings. I stand watch in America’s halls of justice. I stand guard majestically over great institutions of learning.
“I stand guard with the greatest military power in the world. Look up and see me. I stand for peace, honor, truth and justice. I stand for freedom …
“… But my finest hour comes when I am torn in strips to be used as bandages for my wounded comrades on the field of battle – when I fly at half mast to honor my Soldiers, my Airman, my Sailors, my Marines, and – when I lie in the trembling arms of a grieving mother, at the graveside of her fallen son or daughter.
“I am proud. My name is ‘Old Glory.’ Dear God – long may I wave.”
I know we are in a strange time. People seem to be separating rather than collaborating. We are in an era of toxicity and trauma. And I am sure there will be some negative comments about this post.
But knowing that our country, rights and freedoms (which are NOT free) are protected by these honorable men and women makes me sleep well.
We can learn much about leadership and competence from our armed forces. The quiet resolve to do their duty. Their courage. And most of all, their willingness to put service, honor and the greater good ahead of their own comfort and safety. What would corporate America be like if it followed Nate’s example?
Thank you, Col. Miller, for 27 years of service. I am excited to remain your friend and watch what you do next. I know it will be amazing!
My daughter Kara, me, Dani, Pete Fowler (Dani’s brother), Pete’s wife Amy, my son Kane, his girlfriend Maddie
Me, Nathan and my wife Dani
Gunnery Sgt. Martin, General Thomas, Col. Nathan Miller
My son Kane w/Nate
My daughter Kara w/Nate
Nathan with his parents Mike and Cathy
Nate’s very last drive away from his beloved Miramar base