PIQUA — People come and people go throughout our lives. But some friendships are for a lifetime. Such is the case with Joel Miller and John Houser.
Houser, who lives near Fletcher, and Miller, who resides in Covington, have been friends since just after high school graduation, even though sometimes thousands of miles separated them.
Both graduated from high school in 1967, Miller from Covington, and Houser from Miami East. They met while attending Miami Jacobs College in Dayton and became friends.
The late ’60s were the height of the Vietnam War and young men of the era had to consider when, or how, they were going to serve in the military.
With the probability of being drafted into the U.S. Army looming, Miller made the decision to join the U.S. Navy. Meanwhile, Houser’s decision was helped by his friend — or, as he puts it, “This dummy (pointing at Miller) talked me into joining the Navy.”
The pair went to a local recruiter who, with a straight face, promised the friends that they would train together and serve together, if that is what they wished.
Houser and Miller headed off together for Great Lakes Naval Training Base, where they received their basic training. It was about this time that the young men learned that the desire of the Navy superseded their own wishes, or the promises of a recruiter.
Miller was shipped out to assignment in Washington, D.C., and Houser to the West Coast, where he was ordered aboard the U.S.S. Dubuque (LPD-8). Both recall that their pay during those years was $96 per month.
Miller was detailed to a U.S. Navy Honor Guard. He served as an honor guard member during the funeral of former President Dwight Eisenhower and for special events involving Richard Nixon and French President Charles De Gaulle, among others.
Houser, meanwhile, was sailing the Pacific Ocean aboard the Dubuque, where he served as a personnel clerk and a “phone talker” when at battle stations. During his cruises aboard the Dubuque, Houser and his shipmates made port calls in Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Okinawa, and Guam.
After two years, the pair were each sent to new assignments. This time, Houser went to the East Coast and Miller to the West. They did manage to locate one another and spend some time together for two weeks in September of 1971.
Both men were discharged from the Navy in 1972. Houser went on to attend Ohio State University.
The friends lost contact with each other in the late 70s, but managed to exchange Christmas cards “once in a while.” Houser began his career, working for Monarch Machine, General Motors, and finally Lexis Nexis before retiring. Miller spent 34 years at Hobart Manufacturing.
Several years ago, Miller suffered a stroke and his wife, Kathy, kept friends informed of his recovery process using Facebook. Houser, and his wife, Dona, reconnected with the Millers and the friendship was renewed.
In recent months, Houser has been hospitalized four times. During his last stay at Upper Valley Medical Center, he ended up across the hall from Miller, who was also under doctor’s care at UVMC.
“It was meant to be,” said Houser, speaking of their being close to support each other in their recovery.
After some hospital time, Miller was sent to Piqua Manor Nursing Home in Piqua for continued recovery and rehabilitation. A few days later, Houser was transferred to the same facility and once again found himself across the hall from his friend.
The men, along with their wives, have been spending lots of time together as they work and support each other on their road to recovery.
Miller and his wife, Kathy, will celebrate 43 years of marriage in December. They live with their dog, Peaches, in Covington.
Houser has been married to Dona since 2010. He has two daughters and Dona, two sons. Between them they have seven grandchildren.
Reach Mike Ullery at (937) 451-3335.