Reporting from Washington — President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor on Wednesday to Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, who died in Afghanistan after exposing himself to enemy fire and saving the lives of more than 20 U.S. and Afghan troops.
Obama presented the award — the nation's highest military recognition — to Miller's parents during a somber ceremony in the East Room of the White House. More than 100 of Miller's friends and family attended the ceremony.
"You gave your oldest son to America, and America is forever in your debt," Obama told Miller's parents, Phil and Maureen Miller.
The 24-year-old Green Beret was raised in Wheaton, Ill., and "born to lead," Obama said, noting that Miller earned two Army Commendation Medals during his first tour in Afghanistan.
"It has been said that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point," Obama said at the ceremony. "For Rob Miller, that testing point came three years ago, deep in a snowy Afghan valley."
During his second tour in Afghanistan, Miller volunteered to lead a small nighttime patrol to a remote area near the border with Pakistan. The patrol was assigned to gather information about a compound that had been destroyed by insurgents.
Just before dawn on Jan. 25, 2008, 150 Taliban insurgents ambushed the patrol. As the insurgents closed in, the soldiers were overwhelmed by gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades. Miller ordered his team to fall back, Obama said.
Miller charged toward the insurgents, directing gunfire away from his comrades and allowing them to get to safety. Members of the patrol could hear Miller's voice over the radio as he relayed enemy locations.
"And then, over the radio, they heard his voice," Obama said. "He had been hit."
Despite being shot in the chest, Miller continued to radio enemy locations while hurling grenades toward the insurgents. He killed 10 insurgents and wounded dozens more, Obama said. Five men from the patrol were wounded, but everyone except Miller survived. Members of the patrol attended the ceremony.
The courage Miller displayed "reflects every virtue that defined his life," Obama said.
"We are very proud and grateful that Rob showed such great courage," Maureen Miller said after the ceremony. "We want everyone to know that Rob loved what he was doing, he was good at what he was doing and he believed he was working for a good cause."
Miller is the third soldier in the Afghanistan war to receive the Medal of Honor. Four such medals have been awarded to soldiers from the war in Iraq.