Janice Strock , now 50 and living in Oldsmar, Fla., still remembers that day and the moment her father returned.

"He kept his promise," Strock said. "I don't think he ever thought he wouldn't come back."

Strock's memories of her father, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, and the memories her three sisters and mother hold took on an added poignancy this Memorial Day weekend.

Dale Miller , who also served in the Korean War and earned six campaign stars for service in combat zones, died this week. He was 75.

Without him, Mary Miller , 72, his wife of 51 years, and her daughters feel Memorial Day holds a new significance for them.

"He was very proud of his Army career and took Memorial Day very seriously," Mary said. "It always meant a lot to him. I guess it's going to have a new meaning for us now."

Not that Dale Miller was one to talk much about his 20 years in the military. His family says he never wanted to "burden" them with stories about his military career. Even later, when he worked for the optical technology division of Perkin-Elmer Corp. in Danbury - he was part of the Hubble Space Telescope program - he was modest.

Dale Miller was drawn toward a career in the military when he was still in high school. His two brothers served in World War II and Miller watched them with admiration.

Friends and family say Miller always felt he had a duty to be in uniform.

By his 19th birthday, Miller enlisted in the Army. By the early 1950s, the man who never went to college was a first lieutenant serving in Korea.

Mary Miller met him when he came back from Korea in 1952 while she was working as a civilian secretary at the same Army base in New Jersey.

"I remember he asked me out to see (the musical) 'South Pacific' and I couldn't turn it down," Mary said.

They were married the following year.

The Millers and their family moved about the United States a lot before Dale Miller, then a major, was briefed to go to Vietnam.

He told his family later he always thought he'd have to go to Vietnam sometime. In 1965, he was put on a plane to Saigon.

All the Millers ever knew about Dale Miller's work during his year in Saigon was it involved "artillery and ordnance." Once they discovered he was working for the then-U.S. commander in Vietnam, General
William Westmoreland . The rest was classified.

Nonetheless, even in an age without cell phones, the Millers maintained their family ties and shared their personal feelings.

"We used reel-to-reel tapes," said Mary Miller. "He'd send messages to us and we'd use tapes to reply to him. It was a wonderful way to stay in touch and it was wonderful to hear his voice."

Dale Miller retired from the Army in 1968 as a lieutenant colonel. His military decorations included the Legion of Merit, the nation's seventh highest military decoration, the Bronze Star and the National Defense Service Medal.

His family sometimes called him "The Quiet Soldier" because he was loathe to talk about his experiences.

Still, Miller's patriotism and respect for the military was always evident.

One daughter remembers not being allowed to wear one of her father's Army fatigue jackets with her denim bell-bottom trousers because he considered it "disrespectful."

The others, Linda McMillan of New Milford and Sharon Cipolla of Kent, recall being moved when she saw her father marching in formation after returning from Vietnam.

A third, Carol Rentas, now living in Maryland, says even with all his medals, the children rarely thought of their father as being a military man.

"We always thought of him as being a dad," said Rentas. "We sometimes forgot just how much a soldier he was."

Contact Brian Saxton

at bsaxton@newstimes.com

or at (203) 731-3332.