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Pulaski veteran attends White House Medal of Honor ceremony

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His ankle and hand were badly injured in a grenade blast. A Chinese soldier had a gun pointed in his face. The situation was bleak for Pulaski resident and native Herbert A. Miller.

“I knew I was going to be shot, so I just laid there,” he said Thursday.

The sergeant was injured during fighting with Chinese and North Korean soldiers near Unsan, North Korea, in November 1950. Unable to move, he had stayed in a ditch for about 12 hours, until a passing enemy soldier saw and confronted him.

Before the soldier could fire, Mr. Miller was saved when a chaplain, Capt. Emil J. Kapaun, pushed the enemy soldier’s weapon away, then pulled Mr. Miller off the ground.

“Why that man never shot him, I don’t know,” he said. “Usually they would’ve shot him and me, too.”

Mr. Miller, 85, was one of a handful of Korean War veterans who were at a White House ceremony to posthumously award Chaplain Kapaun the Medal of Honor.

“I’m glad they finally did it,” Mr. Miller said. “He was extraordinary. God had put him there for a purpose.”

Mr. Miller and his rescue by Chaplain Kapaun were mentioned by President Barack Obama during the ceremony.

After the rescue, Mr. Miller said, he, Chaplain Kapaun and other members of the unit were forced to march for about two weeks to a North Korean prisoner-of-war camp. For much of that grueling journey, Chaplain Kapaun carried Mr. Miller.

“He would carry me for a ways, then put his arm around me and I’d hop along on one foot for a way,” he said. “That’s the way we went.”

Mr. Miller said Chaplain Kapaun refused to put him down despite his protests, and remembered being told “If I put you down, they’ll kill you.”

The assistant platoon sergeant from 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, said he wondered how the tall and slender chaplain had the strength to carry him.

“It must have been the Lord making sure he had it,” he said.

In captivity, Mr. Miller said Chaplain Kapaun moved between groups of soldiers, offered medical aid along with prayers and words of encouragement.

“‘I know we’ll get out of here, I know we will,’” Mr. Miller recalled Chaplain Kapaun saying.

The last time he saw Chaplain Kapaun, Mr. Miller said, he was being taken away, with a bruise visible on his face, by enemy soldiers.

Chaplain Kapaun died in captivity on May 23, 1951. After nearly three years in captivity, Mr. Miller was freed in August 1953.

Mr. Miller said bringing up the memories of Chaplain Kapaun was “like trying to swallow a baseball.”

“He did so much, and never made it back,” he said.

The decades of waiting for Chaplain Kapaun’s Distinguished Service Cross to be upgraded to a Medal of Honor was frustrating, Mr. Miller said, adding that the chaplain’s brother died two years ago.

“It shouldn’t have taken so long,” he said.

Mr. Miller will attend a ceremony today honoring Chaplain Kapaun at the Pentagon.

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