PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflection represents PV1 Fred Miller’s legacy of their military service from 1976 to 1999. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.
Riskiest Moment: Was there any specific incident during your military service when you felt your life was at risk? What were the circumstances, and what was the outcome?
February 3, 1979 – WINTERFORGE 79
I was assigned to the Joint Visitor’s Bureau to drive visiting dignitaries and their liaison officers around to view the REFORGER exercise area in M151A1 Jeeps. On the night of February 3, the Liaison Officer I was assigned to ordered me to return to our base at Katterbach Airfield, near Ansbach. It was late and raining hard, so visibility was very poor. Last I remember, I was near Illesheim, traveling along a small two lane, tree lined road, when time stopped for me.
It stopped because I’d had a head-on collision with an M60 tank I never saw. A company of tankers from Ft. Hood was there for the exercise, and they were lost. They thought they were inside the exercise box, but in reality, they were outside it, on a public road, running in a blackout drive. By the time they noticed I wasn’t slowing, it was too late for them to turn on their lights. My Jeep and I went in under the front slope of the lead tank.
I woke up two days later in what finally registered as a tent when I opened my eyes. I started taking stock of my situation. My right arm was hanging from a pole with a huge white dressing wrapped around my hand and forearm. My left arm was strapped down to the cot rail and had an IV line in it. A green wool blanket covered me from chest to knees. Both my legs and feet were heavily wrapped and braced. I noticed my face felt odd, but I couldn’t move either arm. Turns out my nose and left orbit were smashed. In the final analysis, I had a fractured orbit, broken nose, both tibia broken and emerged through the skin, smashed right ankle with multiple fractures, my right thumb was amputated but found in the housing of the Jeep’s broken rearview mirror, and a steel rod from the Top had impaled my left shoulder, passing all the way through and punching a piece of the scapula out the back.
But I was unbelievably lucky; my doctor that night was an Army Reservist and NYC trauma surgeon doing her three week active duty stint at the exercise. She did a bang-up job of fixing most of what was wrong, including reattaching my thumb well enough it still works.
Even luckier, when they airlifted me to a regular hospital, it was to Heidelberg. My fiance of less than three weeks was stationed at Campbell Barracks in Heidelberg, so I had great company as I rested and healed. About a week after arriving at the Heidelberg hospital, I was well enough to be wheeled down to the orderly’s station to use the phone. I called my unit and identified myself to the Company Clerk. After a brief pause, I heard him yell, “Holy ****, Top, come here! I’m talking to a ****ing ghost! Seems the Army had notified my unit I was dead. We just managed to reach my parents before the Army notified them of my death.
Forty-five years and a twenty-one year Army career later, all my body parts are still attached and work, so I’d say I came out alright.
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