He was supposed to be a farmer, like his father. But when the United States entered the Great War, Henry L. Miller felt a patriotic duty to join the fight. Henry enlisted in Co. M, 49th Infantry of the regular Army, on July 26, 1917. Soon thereafter, he transferred into Co. M, 23rd Infantry, 2nd Division and began training in Syracuse. Little more than one month later, young Miller shipped overseas.
Henry L. Miller was born in Perinton, New York, on April 23, 1895, but moved to Pittsford, New York, at an early age. The third child of Charles and Reka Miller, he was their first son. Three more daughters and another son, Norman, later joined the Miller family. Dorothy, Henry’s youngest sibling, was just 9 years old when he went overseas. She must have been so proud of her big brother. Henry no doubt smiled as he received the packages of letters from his sisters and brother which sporadically reached him somewhere in France.
The letters Henry wrote home most likely inspired both pride and fear in his parents. Henry wrote of life at the front. He mentioned the six weeks he had spent in the trenches before being allowed a short period of rest. He talked of going “over the top” of the trenches to pitch headlong into the thick, German artillery fire. Somehow, Henry managed to survive. Then came Belleau Wood.
On June 6, 1918, the Marines stationed with the 23rd Infantry sustained casualties of 31 officers and nearly 1,100 men. The 23rd Infantry also lost many good men, including Henry L. Miller. Four weeks after the Battle of Belleau Wood, the Miller family received official notification that Henry was missing in action. It took another three weeks before Charles and Reka Miller were formally notified that their son, Private Henry L. Miller, had died at Belleau Wood on June 6. Henry was buried in France and would remain there for three long years until his parents could bring him back to Pittsford.
“Hero’s Body Arrives” touted the local papers. Henry L. Miller was home. On September 11, 1921, the remains of Henry Miller were interred at Pittsford Cemetery. He was laid to rest beside his grandparents, Henry and Elizabeth Lussow Mueller. The military honor guard that oversaw the burial were members of a one-year old American Legion Post known as Rayson-Miller Post 899, so named after Homer Rayson, who was killed in action in October, 1918, and Henry L. Miller. This year, the Rayson-Miller Post celebrated their 90th anniversary.
The Miller family of Pittsford has a proud history of military service. Beginning back in the Civil War when Henry’s grandfather, Henry L. Mueller, fought for the Union with the 8th NY Cavalry, the Millers have had over 15 family members serve in the armed forces. These Miller men have served in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea and in the Persian Gulf. Something tells me Henry L. Miller would be extremely proud of such a legacy.