Nov 11, 2013 12:15 PM by Danielle Lerner
TUCSON- Every Monday this month News 4 Tucson is honoring and remembering Southern Arizona's Lost Heroes, servicemembers who went missing in action while fighting in Vietnam.
On this Veterans Day you will meet a woman who spent the past four decades trying to solve the mystery surrounding her brother's disappearance. It's been a journey filled with frustration, heartbreak and a deep-rooted determination to discover the truth.
"My father would take us up to the old wooden towers so we could watch the planes, that's what Mike would want to do as recreation," said Dorothy Morris.
That deep passion for flight lead Michael Andrew Miller to the Air Force. The Rincon High and University of Arizona graduate eventually trained as a weapons systems operator in the F-4 Phantom Fighter at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. He deployed for Da Nang Air Base on February 28, 1969.
"I cried for two days and I didn't tell my parents why, but I thought I was never going to see him again and it turned out to be that case," Dorothy said.
One month to the day after Michael deployed Dorothy and her parents were told he was missing in action, that the 24 year old's plane was shot down amid heavy ground fire. For nearly a year taxi drivers delivered telegrams, Air Force personnel sent letters, often providing conflicting accounts of what happened to Michael. One week before the first anniversary of his disappearance, the Air Force changed Michael's status to "killed in action." The move only fueled Dorothy's desire to seek the truth.
"My brother was gone and we needed to know what happened," she said.
Dorothy started at Davis Monthan, searching for anyone who may have served with her brother. She met a young man who had heard rumors about that fateful flight over Vietnam.
"That's exactly how I met my husband, trying to find the truth about my brother," Dorothy said.
For the next 37 years, until her husband's passing, the couple requested and sorted through piles of redacted government files. They tracked down witnesses and military officials until they finally learned what really happened on that hazy night in 1969.
"They were going about 500 miles per hour, a little more than 400 feet above the ground, and they tried to pull up," she said. "There was no way, the plane literally vaporized as it hit."
The commanding officer at the time later told Dorothy he knew within hours the plane had crashed. He said he originally listed Michael and his pilot as missing in action so the pilot's wife and children could continue receiving benefits.
"That is what brought me closure, was the truth," she said.
Even with the facts, Dorothy's father never came to terms with Michael's disappearance.
"Even when he died at the age of almost 88 in 2003, I think he kept hoping that somehow my brother would be at the door, waiting and ringing the door bell," Dorothy said.
In April 2007, 1st Lt. Michael Andrew Miller received full military honors during a funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery, complete with a missing man formation. Dorothy says the grave site will stay empty but the headstone will forever memorialize Michael's bravery and patriotism.
"My son is named after my brother and here they saw the honors given to him, and my granddaughters were there as well and I think that was important," she said. "I could imagine my brother, had he been able to see this, how proud he would be because he was so proud of being in the Air Force."
To learn more about Southern Arizona's "Lost Heroes" click here.