NORMAN — This tribute is to my American hero, my sister, my friend, Commander Jeanne M. Miller, United States Navy (retired). She lives here in Norman, but because she is humble about her past, you may not know about her service in the U.S. Navy.
Jeanne grew up on a farm in northern Oklahoma, about as far from an ocean as you can get. Upon graduation from Phillips University in Enid in 1973, she attended Officer Candidate School in Rhode Island, graduating as part of the first co-ed class in the history of OCS.
Ensign Miller’s first assignment was to the staff of Commander Patrol Wings, U.S. Pacific Fleet, as executive officer of the Flag Administrative Unit. In October 1976, Lt. Junior Grade Miller was assigned to Naval Technical Training Center at Treasure Island. While there, she earned a master’s degree in public administration.
In October 1979, Lt. Miller reported to the USS Dixie as operations officer and navigator, completing two deployments to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, including time during the taking of the hostages in Iran.
In 1982, she reported to Naval Post Graduate School, earning a M.A. in strategic planning, and, in 1984, reported for duty as the first lieutenant on the USS Shenandoah, completing a deployment to the Mediterranean, including service with the Libyan task force.
Subsequently, she became a pioneer for women in the Navy as one of the first two women surface warfare officers to take over executive officer jobs aboard Navy ships. As executive officer, Lt. Commander Miller was assigned to the USS Sierra, completing another deployment to the Mediterranean.
She was promoted to commander in 1988 and served a tour at naval personnel command in Washington, D.C., from 1988 through 1991. In 1992, Commander Miller assumed command of the USS Merrimack, becoming the third woman in history to command a Navy ship, and served in the Caribbean Sea during drug intervention operations, refueling ships in the Mediterranean, in the Adriatic Sea with the Kosovo task force and in the Red Sea during Operation Desert Shield.
She was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal. For seven years, Commander Miller was the highest ranking female surface warfare officer in the United States Navy.
In 1994, Jeanne retired from the Navy and moved to Norman to help take care of our mother. Subsequently, she earned a juris doctor degree from OU.
She was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and is a survivor of that battle. Jeanne serves on nonprofit boards in Norman and helps others through pro bono work as an attorney and volunteer activities.
So, if you ever have a chance to work with her or volunteer alongside her, you know you are with a community volunteer who also just happens to be a pioneer for women in the United States Navy and my American hero.
I salute you, sister and friend, as well as the thousands of other veterans currently serving or who have served in the United States Armed Forces.