By Joanna Bastian
Danford “Danny” Miller raised a well-traveled American flag on Memorial Day. After waving in wind currents around the globe, the broad stripes and bright stars came to rest in the Methow Valley. This particular Old Glory is seen as a symbol of what connects us all: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
A Methow descendent of the First People, Danny was born at the family home that today lies beneath the waters behind Wells Dam. His aunt Agnes attended his birth as the midwife. His parents, Eva and Henry, shared an orchard with Danny’s uncles, Albert and Jerome, on historical land that had for centuries been cared for by their ancestors.
Danny’s family has a long history of serving their country in different ways. Sam Miller started the first trading post in Wenatchee and was instrumental in developing a sustainable economy in the region that included Native Americans. CB Timentwa was a vocal advocate for fishing and land rights. Roberta Minnis lobbied Congress for equal employment rights and laid the groundwork for the Tribal Employment Rights Office. Randy Lewis helped form the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, an organization that provides educational, cultural and social services.
Danny, like many men of his generation, was swept into service in the Vietnam War along with his cousin Jay Miller and childhood friend Chuck Borg. Danny served in the Army Special Forces, earning the Green Beret. His cousin Jay flew 235 combat missions in the A-6 Intruder over North Vietnam from the USS Midway. Chuck served as an Airborne Ranger.
Danny was wounded during the infamous battle of Dak To, also known as Hill 875. He was sent home with the American flag that flew over Kham Duc.
After his recovery, Danny pursued skydiving to find inner peace. “When I’m in the air, everything goes away,” he said. His love of heights was put to good use as a high-rise ironworker. Danny built towering structures in Scotland, China and across the United States. When the final beam rose into place, the builders celebrated by topping off the beam with a U.S. flag and an evergreen tree. Danny unfurled his flag to top off the final construction beams across America, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and closer to home at the Deaconess Hospital in Spokane. His flag even flew from the final crossbeam of a building I used to work in: Intel-Micron Flash Technologies in Lehi, Utah.
Which brings me to the main reason Danny shares his story: We are all connected.
On Memorial Day, the family lifted the flag to its final resting position above the Methow River on family land steeped in history and tradition. Danny’s cousin Mark commented on the illumination of the flag at sunrise and again at sunset, and what the flag represents to him as a Methow descendent and a member of the Methow Valley community. “We have been charged to protect and preserve this valley. That flag – it is significant,” Mark said.
As we sat on a sunny plateau overlooking the bend in the Methow River, the flag waved peacefully below. Danny reminded me why he wanted to talk to me in the first place. “Our family has been bonded to this valley for 10,000 years and it’s been no small effort to keep us here together. But this is not just about me,” he said, pausing and lifting a finger for emphasis. “It is about the whole valley, all the people, this place. People here have done good work preserving this place, making connections, building bridges, educating others. I’m Indian by birth, but I’m an American by choice.”