Derrick Miller: Another combat veteran in prison because of judgment call in war zone

How many times have Americans heard of air attacks on civilian areas—even on a hospital—in a war zone? Too many to count, dating to the presidency of Ronald Reagan and continuing to the present day era of Barack Obama. No president has gone to prison, and none should have. Each leader has made judgment calls in times of war or conflict on behalf of the country he took an oath to protect.

Members of the military, however, don’t seem to have leeway when it comes to judgment calls. Having covered the case of former 1LT Clint Lorance, the cases of three Navy SEALs, the case of a young US Army captain, and others, it is obvious to me the military justice system is in need of critical reform.

I learned of yet another case of a soldier I believe was railroaded—former Army National Guardsman Sgt. Derrick Miller. 

The military justice system is stacked against the soldier, but that is an issue no media will report on.


Miller was stationed in a volatile area in Afghanistan in 2010. He had done multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The sergeant was told to question a suspicious Afghan. After a heated exchange—quite normal if you think someone is helping others to kill you and your brothers—the Afghan ended up dead. Sgt. Miller claimed self-defense, saying the detainee tried to grab a gun another soldier had handed Miller.

The Afghan had told multiple tales about his purpose in the area; he had also breached the defense perimeter set up by the US Army. The Afghan’s stories didn’t add up.

Key question for our military—why are you setting up perimeters if you permit potential terrorists to breach them?

Another soldier present gave damaging testimony, although it could also have been viewed as a positive for the self-defense claims:

“Charles Miller said he interpreted the incident differently.

He said Mohammed tried to create distance by pushing on Derrick Miller’s chest. 

‘I never saw the man grab Sgt. Miller’s weapon but he did try to create space between them by putting a hand towards his chest, however, he never created space between them,’ Charles Miller said. ‘Sgt. Miller then put the gun to the man’s head and pulled the trigger. About 30 seconds went by between the time (he) tried to create space and when Sgt. Miller pulled the trigger.’”

Now it’s easy for you to say someone is trying to “create space” if you’re not on the other end of the space. Charles Miller wasn’t one-on-one with this so-called “civilian.” Note that most Taliban would be viewed as “civilian” by our government. So would al Qaeda. They wear no country’s colors and both groups are among the most oppressive in the world.

Charles Miller also admitted something that warranted consideration. He said of Sgt. Miller during the Article 32 hearing, “I wouldn’t question his judgment if he believed the use of deadly force was necessary.”

Other men who served with Sgt. Miller spoke highly of him.

The dead man’s name was Atta Mohammed. The Associated Press said the Afghan’s name was not included in court records. Why not?

Do we even know if this detainee was an Afghan national? Do we know about his connections and ties? No.

If the issue for Sgt. Miller was self-defense, wouldn’t a logical person ask questions about the dead man? Wouldn’t a logical person ask why the detainee told stories that didn’t hold together, claiming first to be an electrician (without tools, of course) and then claiming to be there to fix a water pump and like that. You get the idea.

I can say this. If a “victim’s” name is not used in court, let us all acknowledge that is a big red flag, just as was the case with the railroading of former 1LT Clint Lorance. In Lorance’s case, the dead “civilians” turned out to have connections to terrorists that the government surely knew about but chose to withhold from the defense.

Was Sgt. Miller’s interrogation of the detainee heated? You bet, and for good reason. At that point in time our soldiers were like sitting ducks. The current administration, held hostage by left wing ideology, seems to believe you can fight a Kumbaya war. You can’t, and I can point to nearly 60,000 dead soldiers in the Vietnam era to prove it.

As Washington policy rained down upon the heads of our troops, and leftist ideology took over, casualties increased significantly. A conservative news site used US military data in late 2013 to examine the increase, finding:

“In fact, according to the database of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan, 73 percent of all U.S. Afghan War casualties have occurred since Jan. 20, 2009 when Obama was inaugurated.”


Whatever happened to “reasonable doubt”? It isn’t a factor in military trials, one reason Lorance is advocating for military justice reform. I plan to help with that as well.

In his calls for reform, Lorance explained the convoluted method for jury selection in a military trial:

“Currently, the jury members are appointed by the same non-lawyer commander who ordered the investigation, hand-picked the investigating officer, charged the service member with a crime and ordered a Court Martial be conducted.” 

You send a man into a war zone where brutality is commonplace and you second guess a decision he makes to save his own life and that of his fellows? What kind of insane policy is that?

There’s something else former 1LT Lorance and former Sgt. Miller had in common—their actions preceded immediate attacks in the areas where they were stationed. On Miller’s Facebook advocacy page, the narrative explained:

“Within 45 minutes, SGT Miller’s unit was attacked on three sides by Afghan insurgents. During Sgt. Miller’s trial, all the soldiers who appeared from his unit testified that the enemy had to have reconnoitered their position closely in order to attack in the manner they did. There was also testimony that the incident with Sgt. Miller forced the entire unit into full alert / 100% security, which prepared the soldiers for the attack. Because of Sgt. Miller’s actions, no American lives were lost due to the level of their preparation.”

The dilemma we have put in the laps of our soldiers is neither necessary nor logical. If the US doesn’t want to fight a war, keep our men and women home. If we do choose to fight, stop protecting the very enemy who want to take our country down.

Above all, stop railroading the men and women who place their lives on the line for their countries. You don’t agree it’s railroading? When I see a president go to prison—from either political party—maybe I’ll agree.

You’ll be hearing more about Miller’s case in weeks to come, and I will continue to cover the case of Lorance here as well. Both soldiers received lengthy prison sentences after being convicted for a judgment call made under duress in a lethal war zone.

[Learn more at Miller’s Facebook page with related links. ]

Featured Photo: Free Derrick Miller Facebook page

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Nov. 11, 2015)

*My customary disclosure: I receive no benefits or payment whatsoever for advocating for our military. I do it as a service to those who have served the country I love.*

About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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