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thedrifter
09-07-06, 09:17 AM
Wife surprises local Marine
Cathryn Miller restores husband Gunnery Sgt. David Miller's 1991 Ford F-150 and stages theft of vehicle after he returns from deployment in Iraq
Published Thursday September 7 2006
By LORI YOUNT
The Beaufort Gazette

It could've been an episode on MTV's "Pimp My Ride," if rap superstar Xzibit were the Australian wife of a Beaufort Marine and Mad Mike were a good ol' Yemassee resident who owns an auto body shop.

Cathryn Miller decided to end her husband's seven-month deployment in Iraq with a bang by surprising him when he came home with a totally renovated 1991 Ford F-150, which she hadn't been able to convince him to get rid of in eight years of marriage.

"I thought, 'If we can't get rid of it, I'll make it look good,'" she said, adding how her husband, Gunnery Sgt. David Miller, had installed three motors in his "Grey Knight," which had no air conditioning and a passenger side window that wouldn't roll down, besides having every "dent and scratch" the Marine was able to put in it these past 15 years.

Cathryn enlisted the help of Carroll Bishop, who owns Carroll's Auto Body in Early Branch, to give the truck not only a new paint job but tires, upholstery, bed, grill, air conditioning and much improvement under the hood. The job took about 4 1/2 months, and the whole time David had no idea.

When he came home to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on Aug. 24 with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, Cathryn told him his truck was in the shop for a muffler problem. She didn't work up the courage for the big lie -- that his truck had been stolen -- until the morning of Aug. 26, hours before the police were to escort his truck in front of Yemassee's nightlife hot spot, Harold's Country Club Bar and Grill.

She managed to pull it off, and so did the police, without David wanting to file a report. Yemassee police Chief Jack Hagy agreed to feign the theft and bring in the Grey Knight in a dramatic way.

"I was glad to get on line," Hagy said, adding that he wasn't crazy about lying at first. "When I came home from Vietnam, we got spit on. So, anything we can do for our service-men."

Cathryn had everyone at Harold's in on it but her husband, so when they saw the police lights flashing, everyone spilled out into the parking lot.

"They came up with lights going," David said. "I thought, 'That's weird. That's my truck, but it's new-looking.'"

"He had to walk around it eight times," Cathryn added.

Hagy told David they found his truck and who stole it, and David said he started becoming angry at the thought of coming face-to-face with the person who stole his truck, when his mother, who he thought was in Texas, stepped out of the truck.

"I felt very deceived, but in a good way, surprised and happy," David said.

"He kept saying 'Thank you,'" Cathryn said, beaming.

"I got a lot of hugs from people I never met before," said David, who lived in the house in Yemassee for only about a month before his deployment to Iraq.

After that, they took David back inside the bar, and two of the best singers of karoake took him on stage and belt out "God Bless America," leaving no eyes dry.

"I've never seen Harold's cry," Bishop said.

For Cathryn, her scheme was a way to get to know her new town and make new friends. Now she's on the top of the list to concoct something special for police officers due home from Iraq in a few months. For David, it was the first time living in the States with his wife that she knew more people than he did.

"He told me, 'Yemassee is a bunch of liars,'" after the truck incident, Cathryn said recently during a conversation at their house on Salkehatchie Road, the one with a wrap-around porch, parrot cut-outs on the mailbox and at least a dozen live birds indoors.

The truck caper wasn't just an act of love from a wife to her husband but also about residents of a town embracing a new family and the service he provided to them as a Marine.

"Yemassee reminded me of small country town in Australia," said Cathryn, who grew up in the isolated Outback of Australia.

David has been in the Corps almost 18 years, and he plans on retiring after 20, and the Millers have every intention of spending the rest of their days in Yemassee, far from their families, but close to new friends.

"The past seven months have reiterated what a good choice we made," Cathryn said.

As for his new truck, he said now he's almost afraid to drive lest he put a scratch in the superior paint job. But there is one benefit.

"Now she'll ride with me in it," David said.

"Now I'll even drive it," his wife replied.

"Hey, who said you can drive that truck?" he said with a grin.

Ellie