Jerry Miller’s itinerant early life helped him learn a valuable lesson that he applied to his later life.
His naval officer father’s career kept the family moving around when Miller was a child, and learning to fit in to new environments gave him skills he could use when he moved to Frederick about 20 years ago.
Specifically, it gave him a valuable insight to life as a senior: Get involved and give as much as you can in the community, because that will help you adapt to new surroundings.
Miller served on the Citizens Nursing Home Board at Citizen’s Care and Rehabilitation Center in Frederick, and as a battlefield tour guide at Gettysburg, among other activities. Volunteering can help make connections that can translate into other aspects of your life, he said.
At 81, he has collected stories of his unusual childhood in a self-published memoir entitled “The Anchors Away Kid,” available at Curious Iguana bookstore in downtown Frederick and on Amazon.
“Anchors Away Kids were called Navy brats, juniors or simply the sons and daughters of U.S. Navy sailors,” according to description of Miller’s book on Amazon.com. “….This book is a kids-eye-view of 20th century American history.”
Miller sees the book as an effort to speak up for many people who grew up with parents in the military. “I hadn’t really ever come across anything that really talked about us,” he said.
Writing the book was a process of piecing together his childhood from family and Navy records, trying to get more insight into his own life and his father’s. Adolph J. Miller was a U. S. Naval Academy graduate who rose to become a fleet commander in the years after World War II. His career kept the family moving frequently, bouncing from Long Beach in Southern California to the Philippines,
Hawaii, France and across Europe and the Far East.
There was a stop at The Hill School, a tony prep school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and some relatively carefree high school years on the French Riviera.
His high school in Frankfurt, Germany, had kids from all over Europe, creating a more worldly and cosmopolitan student body, as well as a common bond.
But for kids like Miller and his generation, uncertainty was a way of life. Coming out of the horror of World War II and the grinding tension of the Cold War, the Korean War, and the threat of the nuclear bomb, the potential for war “was just a presence,” Miller said. Amid the high school football games and dances of teenage life, the bomb and threat of war lingered in the background.
He eventually joined the Navy himself at 18, going to boot camp in San Diego, in the area his father helped oversee as chief of staff for the Western Sea Frontier, according to his book.
But much of “The Anchors Away Kid” focuses on his time growing up.
He knows that military kids today still face the same issues of trying to fit in amid the continuous moves, adjusting to new schools and new friends. It’s important to stay in touch with old friends even after you move, and work to maintain the bonds you’ve formed, he said.
As for new friends, “you really have to be flexible” in dealing with new groups and cliques, and figuring out where you belong.
“People are fascinating, and if you’re going to adjust, you really have to perceive these groups,” he said.