Memorial sought for Bedminster soldier killed in Vietnam

BEDMINSTER TWP. – It’s been 55 years since he was killed in action in the Vietnam War, but township resident Walter P. Miller Jr. could soon be getting a memorial in a very special place.

The topic arose at the Township Committee meeting on Tuesday, July 5, when Committeeman Doug Stevinson said Mr. Miller’s contemporaries had approached the township with the idea of a memorial in the soldier’s name outside of the municipal building on Miller Lane.

The Miller family, in fact, once owned “the land we’re sitting on,” Stevinson noted. He said the township’s Historic Preservation Commission suggested a bench that would be consistent with other memorials.

“It’s very appropriate,” he said. “I categorically support the notion.”

Because the proposed bench would be the first to be installed at the municipal campus and not in conjunction with the township’s hike-and-bike program, it would be appropriate to require a resolution from the committee, he added.

Mayor Larry Jacobs then asked Township Administrator Robin Ray to prepare a resolution for the committee’s next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, July 18.

Mr. Miller was born in Bedminster on Dec. 18, 1940, and died in Vietnam on March 2, 1967.

According to a front page story about his death in The Bernardsville News on March 9, 1967, Mr. Miller was a 1960 graduate of Bernards High School and was a member of the baseball team who continued to play in local baseball leagues after graduation.

He then worked for publishing magnate Malcolm Forbes of Bedminster as an estate caretaker and chauffeur. He was drafted into the Army in January 1966 and assigned to Vietnam the following September.

Mr. Miller became an Army specialist fourth class and was stationed with the 100th Engineer Company, doing floating bridge work in the Mekong Delta at the time he was killed.

“He is the first resident of a Somerset Hills municipality to be killed in the present war,” this newspaper reported.

A resident of Holland Road, he was survived by his wife Marilyn, his parents and two sisters. He was buried at the Bedminster Reformed Church Cemetery on Route 202.

His mother, Laura J. Beers Miller, died in November 1973 at age 57. His father, Walter P. Miller, died at his home on Somerville Road in March 1990 at 73.

The request for a memorial was spearheaded by one of Mr. Miller’s Bernards High classmates, Augustus Dante.

Dante, a Peapack native who now lives in Branchburg Township, was a year ahead of his friend, in the Class of 1959.

“He was a great guy, quiet,” Dante recalled in a phone interview on Saturday, July 9. “When he got killed, I thought, that was a guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly. You just couldn’t believe it.”

Dante himself served in the Army from 1962 to 1968 but was never sent to Vietnam. Still, he has been active with Rolling Thunder, a non-profit advocacy group devoted to helping and recognizing veterans while seeking full accountability for prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.

Back in 2015, he was part of the effort that led to the dedication of a Vietnam War Era memorial at Liberty Park in Peapack-Gladstone.

More recently, he turned his attention toward securing a local memorial for Mr. Miller. He said Mr. Miller’s sister Janet, who now lives in Warren County, has been very supportive.

A bench was ultimately proposed and would feature a marker noting Mr. Miller’s name, the fact that he was killed in action, and the dates of his birth and death. Dante said Rolling Thunder plans to fund the $1,100 or so needed.

If the committee proceeds to approve a resolution for the memorial, Dante said he would hope to have the bench installed around Veterans Day in November.

“I want people to recognize Walt as a hero,” he said. “A local hero from Bedminster, New Jersey., and schooled at Bernards High School and played baseball in Peapack. I don’t want people to forget it.”

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in The Bernardsville News.

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