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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'Heroes don't want to be heroes'

Spc. Jerry Miron with his scout dog, Rebel, during the Vietnam War. - Submitted photo

by Kristine Goodrich
Staff Writer

MAPLEWOOD – Jerry Miron declined the first few invitations to give a Veterans Day presentation at Hill-Murray School. Memories of his year in Vietnam leading troops as a scout dog handler still were too raw to talk about.

“When you put your life on the line every day, when you see friends die next to you, then told to get up and start all over again, you have memories that never leave you,” he said.

Miron, a White Bear Lake resident, still refuses to talk about the air strikes, ambushes, booby traps and other harrowing experiences. Even his family hasn’t heard those details.

But after some coaxing by school leaders and family he finally agreed to share some of his memories. For more than a decade now he’s come to his daughters’ former school to share some aspects of a soldier’s experience in the Vietnam War.

“I didn’t want to talk,” he said. “But if I can help them understand what the soldiers went through and how cruel war is; then it’s worth it.”

A St. Paul native, Miron was drafted into the Army soon after high school in 1967. His two older brothers had already served in the military — one in Vietnam and one in Germany. His younger brother enlisted when he was drafted and they trained together: basic training at Fort Campbell, Ky. and advanced infantry training at Fort McClellan, Ala.

“You’re taught to kill,” Miron said.

At Fort Benning, Ga., he was paired with Rebel, a German Shepard who’d already served three tours in Vietnam and had been featured in Time Magazine. After just three months training they were deployed to Vietnam where they were dispatched into the jungles with various Army units.
Miron and Rebel walked at the head of the patrols and Rebel gave a silent warning of upcoming danger. He could detect enemy camps well in the distance, hiding Viet Cong soldiers, food and weapons caches and booby traps.

Once a commander didn’t believe when Rebel warned of an ambush ahead. The commander sent five men ahead to inspect. All five were killed.

Miron and Rebel survived the attacks and traps, as well as the monsoons, scorpion bites and other hazards.

After approximately 30 days out in the field, Miron had five days leave to rest and train his dog. Basketball and barbequing were the most popular free time activities at base camp.

Mail arrived once every 10 days and Miron subscribed to the St. Paul newspaper. He was in Cambodia when he received his first paper. It featured an article with President Richard Nixon denying U.S. troops were in Cambodia.

Like other draftees, Miron returned home after a year in Vietnam and wasn’t warmly received by the public majority, which disapproved of the war.

“We were treated like garbage,” he said. “We got kicked in the face and it wasn’t right.”

Miron went on to Mankato State College and works from home as a commercial mortgage broker.

Along with war stories, Miron tells students about his heroes.

He lauds the servicemen and women in Operation Enduring Freedom who volunteer to serve multiple tours of duty.

“I can’t imagine having to go back,” he said.

The family members at home left to worry also are heroes, he said. His mother is his personal hero. She was a World War II bride. Her husband was gone in the military two of their nine years of marriage.

Jerry Miron’s father died in a farming accident when he was a toddler, leaving his mother with six children to raise on her own, four of whom served in the military.

“Heroes don’t want to be heroes,” he said. “They don’t think they are heroes. They were thrust into a situation and just responded.”

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