MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Being a Mountaineer means so much to the residents of West Virginia. There aren’t professional sports teams here and the one thing residents have is the love and pride of their university.
Sometimes life takes us in different directions but those country roads always bring us home.
For Petty Officer 2nd Class John Miller, he decided to join the United States Navy, where he spent seven years.
Like anyone, Miller carried his West Virginia roots with him in his travels. When he was deployed overseas, the Marshall County native took the state flag along for the journey.
“I wanted to take my flag overseas with me just so I have a piece of home there with me,” he said. “The flag just reminded me to stay humble through everything and to remind me of my roots of where I came from.”
While overseas, Miller was responsible for maintaining and storing aircraft and ground support equipment batteries as well as performing routine inspections and maintenance on night vision goggles.
Being in a foreign place is never easy but Miller had two young children at home but luckily, he was able to talk to them.
After seeing a UCLA football one day, the John Marshall High School alum decided to write to WVU and see if they would send him one.
They did just that.
While the gesture doesn’t seem like much, it meant the world to Miller and his unit.
“The football honestly just increased our morale,” he said. “We were in a big hurry to get over there and at the time no one knew what our schedule would be like or if we would have downtime to just pass a ball around and joke around. “
At first, no one believed that the university was sending something.
“They honestly didn’t believe me when I had mentioned to them that we would be receiving a football from WVU,” Miller said. “Of course, with myself as the only one from my unit from West Virginia, I think I was the most excited for it. We received a package from WVU on Thanksgiving that had another ball, shirts, hats, and helmet decals from their veteran’s day game and we dispersed everything out and took a few group photos with everything. One of our guys, who is from Texas and a big Longhorn fan, ended up wearing a WVU shirt and hat the longest out of all of us during our shift that night.”
When the Mountaineers decided to run on the field with Miller’s flag, it was a proud moment for the Navy Seal.
“I was in contact with someone from the athletic department and she sent me a video and picture of the team running onto the field with the flag, which I thought was awesome,” he said.
Growing up Miller, like many natives to the Mountain State, cherishes those Saturday afternoon trips to Morgantown.
“Some of my favorite memories would have to be going to the stadium with my dad and grandfather and just experiencing the energy there,” he said. “I remember my first WVU game when I was little against East Carolina. Another great memory I have is that I was able to see Pat White play as a Mountaineer in Morgantown.”
Because of Miller and all the other men and women who serve and have served in the United States military, we have football on Saturdays along with other things.
However, he is grateful for the small thing the Mountaineer football program did for him.
“I am very grateful and thankful of WVU and their athletic and football departments for everything that they were able to do for me while I was deployed and even now,” he said.
Cover Photo Credit: John Miller