Marine adjusts to civilian life
Published: February 17, 2013
As a sergeant major in the U.S. Marine Corps, Eugene Miller of Sayre traveled the world several times over, fought in the Gulf War in the early 1990s, was deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2005 and Afghanistan in 2009, and led as many as 3,000 people during his 27-year career.
Today, Miller, whose retirement ceremony was held Jan. 25, finds himself in a unique position. At 45 years old, he’s too young to retire permanently. He’s settled in a relatively new environment — his wife’s hometown of Sayre — and he’s unsure how his vast experiences in the military will translate to day-to-day life and the civilian workforce.
“It’s different,” Miller, who joined the Marine Corps in 1985 right out of high school, said of civilian life. “I don’t know anything different other than the military. I don’t know if the reality’s set in.”
Miller has spent most of his retirement so far enjoying some downtime with his wife, who works at a local animal hospital, and the couple’s two dogs. However, Miller said he looks forward to putting in job applications and pursuing employment, where he hopes to get back into the routine he’s used to.
The pace of civilian life has been somewhat jarring, he said.
“The military is very regimented,” he said. “You’re on a set schedule.”
During his last 10 years in the Marine Corps, Miller has served in middle to upper-level management positions, eventually being promoted to sergeant major, the Marine Corps’ highest enlisted rank, in January 2008. At the time of Miller’s retirement, he was one of 517 sergeants major on active duty, an about average number for the force of about 202,000, Miller said.
During his career, Miller received three Meritorious Service Medals, a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and two Combat Action Ribbons, according to his military biography.
The military has given Miller leadership, time management, supervision and discipline skills. “I know people, and I know how to manage people,” he said.
The Marine Corps offers a mandatory Transition Assistance Program, which provides job search assistance, but Miller said he still fears that he’ll be unable to find employment in the area.
“Trying to turn your military talents into civilian language is confusing,” he said.
Making an entire career out of the military, he said, “takes a lot to do. I was lucky to make it through the ranks.”
One exciting thing about retirement, Miller said, is that he gets to spend more time with his family: his wife Becky and their son, who attends the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, as well as two dogs. Miller also has two children who live in California and another who lives in Colorado.
While Miller said the military lifestyle is rough on a family, “it was a good life,” he said. “I wouldn’t change anything, except maybe more family time.”
Miller, a native of Bradford, Pa., first visited Sayre around the time of his marriage to Becky. “I fell in love with this little town,” he said. “I love the small-town activity.” His wife moved back to the area about five years ago, while he was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
In his last role as Inspector Instructor Sergeant Major of the 3rd Battalion of the 14th Marine Regiment in Philadelphia, where he was assigned in January 2010, Miller drove to Sayre on weekends to see his family and become acquainted with the area.
In addition to settling in the Valley and being able to pursue camping and other hobbies with his family, Miller said he also wants to spread his enthusiasm about the Marine Corps, a source of pride. Miller proudly proclaims his affiliation with the Marines through a lawn ornament in front of his house and decals on his pickup truck. “I want to be an advertisement for country and corps,” he said.
Things have changed since Miller entered the corps in 1985, but much is the same, he said. While he said today’s up-and-comers are “harder to get through to,” they have technological knowledge and, once they join the Marine Corps, tend to mature quickly.
“When the military is called and things need to be done, today’s kids are as tough as nails as those 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago,” he said.
Miller’s family and friends are proud of his accomplishments, said his aunt, Deborah Nichols of Milan. “We want the community to embrace these veterans and understand what they have achieved.”
Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.