View Full Version : Mourners recall Colo. soldier's compassion

10-05-07, 04:58 PM
Mourners recall Colo. soldier's compassion
By Howard Pankratz The Denver Post

Article Last Updated: 10/04/2007 07:13:09 PM MDT

The soldiers came today and praised a man who died caring for his brothers.

From the commanding general of Marine special forces to a senior chief hospital corpsman, Luke Milam was honored for being a "warrior" who fought bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the 6-foot-4 Milam was far more than a Navy corpsman who became an excellent combat soldier, they said. He was also an exceptional human being driven by compassion.

And in a Littleton church, several hundred people learned why Luke Milam was so compassionate.

On April 20, 1999, Milam, a senior at Columbine High School, lost his buddy, Isaiah Shoels.

Milam usually ate lunch in the high school cafeteria and went to the library to study. But on that day, he changed his pattern and left school at lunch time to take care of a sick dog at home.

When he returned, he found chaos at the school and was stopped from re-entering.

"Luke was devastated by the shooting and the loss of his good friend and workout partner Isaiah Shoels," his friend Rusty West said. "After attending Isaiah's memorial service, Luke came home, sat in the dark with his mom and cried, saying that he was done going to memorial services and talking about the shooting," West said at Milam's funeral at Littleton United Methodist Church today.

"He had first blamed himself for his friend's death, for not being in the cafeteria, for not saving people, for not knowing what to do, but had come to the realization that he did not have the skills or the knowledge to have made a difference."

At that point, West said, Luke Milam vowed to go into the Navy, become a corpsman and prepare himself so "he would never be in that position again," West said.

Milam died on Sept. 25 during a battle between coalition and Taliban forces near the city of Musa Qula, an opium-poppy growing area of Afghanistan.

And at the service, Major General Dennis Hejlik, the commanding general of Marine special forces told Luke's parents, sister and two brothers what a special guy Milam was who was always there for his fellow soldiers.

Hejlik had gotten to know Milam in Iraq.

The general had first seen Milam and his platoon when they walked into a tent following three days of fierce combat, the grimiest, dirtiest Marines he had ever seen, he said.

They dropped their gear with a thud, sat down for some chow, but before they took a bite, the men grasped hands and "gave thanks to the Lord," Hejlik said.

In Iraq, Milam was awarded the Bronze Star for bravery after his platoon came under savage attack. He pulled injured soldiers from burning vehicles, arranged a defensive perimeter and fought off the attackers, Hejlik said.

In 2006 Milam was honored as being one of the best soldiers in U.S. Marines Forces Special Operations with the "Operator of the Year Award."

"God bless you for your son," Hejlik told the Milam family. "We can never replace him. I knew Luke personally. He was an absolutely marvelous guy. He was huge and he was humble."

Ken George, a senior chief medical hospital corpsman, who had known Milam throughout his career, said that Milam "was loved by everyone out of respect for him as a person first, as a proficient warrior and more importantly as a brother."

"It wasn't about Luke, it was about his brothers. His sense of duty was profound and his passion for the job drove his proficiency both medically and tactically.

"Luke was special — a special son, brother, friend. A special sailor, a special American, a special amphibious reconnaissance corpsman," George said.

"We love you brother."

Howard Pankratz: 303-954-1939 or hpankratz@denverpost.com


10-19-07, 08:14 PM
I am a member of a group that makes condolence/comfort books for our fallen heroes. I have the honor of making a book for the parents of Luke Milam. If anyone would like to send a message to his family you can send me a private email and I will be sure to print it up to include in this book. I would like to show his family how much we appreciate the sacrifice this young man has made for us.My nephew is in the Marine Corp and has already been to Iraq once, and I know how important their "docs" are to them and I for one appreciate all they do.
Terri-Very Proud Aunt of a United States Marine