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A soldier is remembered

Sgt. Kyle Miller was a common guy called to an uncommon duty, Rev. Steven Knudson said Monday at the funeral of the young Willmar soldier. "Kyle grew up in ordinary circumstances and went to a place of exceptional danger," he said.

Sgt. Kyle Miller was a common guy called to an uncommon duty, Rev. Steven Knudson said Monday at the funeral of the young Willmar soldier. "Kyle grew up in ordinary circumstances and went to a place of exceptional danger," he said.

Miller, 19, was killed June 29 near Balad, Iraq, after a roadside bomb exploded. He was assigned to a field artillery unit headquartered in New Ulm and was one of about 2,600 Minnesota National Guard members serving in Iraq.

An estimated 1,000 people gathered at the Willmar Civic Center for the funeral. Miller received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star during the 90-minute service.

Knudson spoke about the questions that come with death, according to his prepared remarks. The family had requested media not attend the service, the National Guard said.

"For those of us who gather as a community around you, we are aware that we can never fully know what it means to lose a son so young," Knudson said.

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But he said God provides strength, protection and "goes with us in all the valleys and mysteries of life so that we might have faith and hope."

Miller took an oath and followed a call, knowing the dangers he would face, he said.

"And when it happens, that battle or bombs takes a life, we grieve with an understanding, however painful, of the price paid for a future peace," he said.

Brig. Gen. Dean Johnson of Willmar, a National Guard chaplain and state senator, said during the service that the giving of one's life is the greatest sacrifice a person can make.

"We are eternally grateful and appreciative for the life, duty and devotion of Sgt. Kyle Miller," he said.

Johnson said Monday afternoon that the outpouring from the community for the Miller family has been one of the largest and strongest in his experience.

Miller was born Oct. 15, 1986, in Warren to Randy and Kathy Miller. He grew up in Bird Island and Willmar, graduating last year from the Willmar Area Learning Center. He joined the Guard in 2003 when he was a junior in high school.

Miller's younger sister Kim, an aunt, Michelle Nybo, and an uncle, Brian Hazard also spoke about Miller during the service, Knudson said.

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Outside, the Civic Center sidewalks were lined with about 200 Patriot Guard Riders, almost all of them holding full-size American flags. The Patriot Guard, which is made up of mostly veterans, attends soldiers' funerals to show support and block protesters. No protesters came to Civic Center or the cemetery.

Bill Mimm of Pequot Lakes said Vietnam veterans like him didn't receive much respect when they returned home. He joined the Patriot Guard because he thinks these soldiers deserve better.

"It's a show of respect for what they're doing," he said. "I can't imagine what it's like losing a kid in a war like this. It must be awful for them."

After the service, more than 30 National Guard members lined the sidewalk and saluted as pallbearers brought Miller's casket out of the Civic Center. Miller's family followed and then boarded buses that took them to Fairview Cemetery in Willmar for a private burial.

Miller's high school Spanish teacher, Marla Schroeder, said after the service that Miller had a quick smile and came up with one-liners that would lighten up the class.

"He was very pleasant, a very pleasant kid," Schroeder said.

She recalled when Miller came to class with his head shaved. She asked him if he was getting ready for summer. He told her he had joined the National Guard.

"He seemed very excited and proud of his decision," she said. "Everybody was a little bit kind of in awe of him."

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Randy Miller's employer, Kibble Equipment in Bird Island, closed Monday for the funeral so employees could attended. Workers from the other Kibble locations in Redwood Falls, Montevideo and Wabasso also attended the service.

Jeff Kodet, who has worked with Randy Miller for several years, said the war is starting to hit home. Two weeks ago, the funeral for Sgt. Brent Koch, 22, of Morton, another Minnesota National Guardsman killed in Iraq, was held in Morgan.

"It's been a hard three weeks," he said.

One of Miller's high school friends Nicole Dobmeier of Willmar said Miller was a good guy and said the number of people at his funeral was "great."

"He deserved this," she said.

Abbie Simar of Willmar, another high school friend, said Miller was good a listener. Her mother, Kathy, added that they were always laughing "and talking and talking and talking."

But Miller was never good at farewells, Simar said.

"He just didn't like saying goodbye," she said. "It was always see you later."

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