In September 2010, twenty-eight year old Sgt. Derrick Millerof Hagerstown, Maryland,  took part in a combat mission in an area of Afghanistan known to be a Taliban stronghold. An Afghan national who had penetrated a  defense perimeter set up by the US Army was brought to Sgt. Miller’s attention by one of the soldiers under his command. This soldier recognized the man from a security checkpoint one day prior. He positively identified him as the driver of a truck which Miller’s security detachment had searched. That search revealed the vehicle was transporting armed combatants to a nearby firefight. Derrick’s men were, at that time, instructed to let the vehicle pass because of instructions handed down by his superiors in command at the time.

The Afghan man appeared to be gathering information, thus portraying suspicious behavior, ultimately leading to Sgt. Miller being sent to question him. At this time he was already confirmed to be an enemy combatant.

The questioning took place in an open area with another soldier and an Afghan interpreter present. During questioning, Sgt. Miller asked the man why he was within the perimeter. As the man began to speak, his story changed, not once, but twice. He originally claimed to be there to fix a power line that was down. Later he claimed he was there to fix a water pump.

Originally he was seen accompanied by two men whom he claimed to be his sons and helpers. However, both of these men left the perimeter without performing any work, and going separate directions to their village. These men were not present during Sgt. Miller’s questioning. While questioning the insurgent things began to get heated. The Afghan insurgent attempted to grab Sgt. Miller’s weapon, ultimately leading to him being shot and killed in the struggle.

The military has since identified the deceased as Atta Mohammed, but his name was not used in court.

The two men who escaped were later believed to have been carrying back detailed information to the insurgents with details as to how to most effectively attack. They had been inside the perimeter for hours, thus giving them ample time to scope things out and pass that information up the chain of command. All of the details of what took place that day, and within those few hours, were all confirmed and testified by the Afghan interpreter.

Sgt. Miller’s unit was attacked on three sides by Afghan insurgents within 45 minutes of the questioning and death of the Afghan insurgent. In order for them to have attacked in the manner in which they did, someone would’ve had to have reconnoitered their position very closely, soldiers testified during Sgt. Miller’s trial. There is no doubt that the Afghan insurgent had been doing just that. The incident that happened between Sgt. Miller and this man, had forced their entire unit into full alert/100% security, which ultimately had prepared them for the attack just 45 minutes later. This was also testified during Sgt. Miller’s trial.

No American lives were lost that day due to Sgt. Miller’s actions.

Prosecuting attorney Major Matt Calarco claimed Miller’s actions weren’t in line with military protocol, painting him as a murderer instead of a soldier defending himself and his unit.

Specialist Charles Miller, an eyewitness, Guardsman, and owner of the firearm that was eventually used to kill the combatant, testified that he had heard Miller threatening to kill the man if he didn’t tell the truth. He also testified that Mr Miller straddled the man, who was lying on his back “in the latrine,” before shooting him in the head.

But during an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury, Spc. Miller testified that Sgt. Miller was a “squared away” soldier who acted “reasonably in pressure situations.”

“I wouldn’t question his judgment if he believed the use of deadly force was necessary,” Charles Miller said.

In addition to the eyewitness testimony of Charles Miller, all five of the other soldiers who testified, including his commanding officer, described Derrick Miller as a model soldier:

“I observed him on a daily basis,” 1st Lt. Joseph R. Costello said. “In my 18 years of service, Sgt. Miller was one of the best soldiers I had. In combat, he displays excellent judgment.”

Derrick Miller was found guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in Leavenworth prison. After the verdict, Mr Miller’s lawyers said they would appeal for clemency.

Miller’s deployment to Afghanistan was his third in four years. He earlier served two tours of duty in Iraq.

“Sgt. Miller believes, despite his conviction and sentence of life in prison for the murder of this Afghan insurgent, that he was acting solely in self-defense and with sound judgment.”

If you would like to send a word of encouragement to Sgt. Derrick Miller; you may do so with the address listed below:

Derrick Miller 89775
1300 N. Warehouse Road
Ft. Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304

Also on Facebook and his personal website


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