by Ray Maloney
The training Ronald Miller received as a Marine was put to the test in a big way earlier this year.
On Friday the 55-year-old Miller, of Omaha, Neb., stood not far from the scene where he prevented a catastrophic event and was presented a plaque by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
“(Miller's) quick thinking and the actions he took certainly prevented a more serious accident,” said Cpt. Bob Powell of Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop A in presenting Miller with his award.
Miller was driving south on Interstate 29 on the evening of Jan. 22, when he noticed a vehicle driven by a 93-year-old Platte City man heading in the wrong direction on the busy interstate and causing several cars to drive off the road to avoid a collision with the errant vehicle.
Miller, a retired 1st Sgt. in the U.S. Marines, also saw numerous vehicles approaching that were unaware of the potential danger ahead. That was when Miller steered his tractor-trailer sideways in a controlled stop on the highway, causing the wrong way driver to stop in front of him while the southbound traffic stopped behind Miller's rig.
“When we first got the call, our instincts were that we were going to be working a fatality situation,” said Sgt. D.J. Hedrick, one of the first troopers on the scene and who nominated Miller for the award, “Wrong way situations do not usually end well.”
“They call me a hero,” the soft-spoken Miller said after receiving his award. “Heroes don't brag.”
Miller recalled the cold January day when his military training was called to action.
“It was a chaotic scene. Cars were splitting off to avoid the situation and northbound cars were flashing their lights to warn of the danger ahead,” said Miller, who planned to retire after completing his final delivery on Friday and returning home to Eureka Springs, Ark. “The Marine Corps taught us to improvise, attack and overcome.”
It was the second award Miller said he has received for his actions during his 35-year career as a truck driver. He said that a number of years ago he came upon a situation in Colorado where a female sheriff's deputy was being attacked by four suspected prison escapees. Miller said he fired a weapon into the air to help stop the attack and was later presented an award for that incident.
“If you find yourself in a situation that requires action you are expected to act and do what is necessary to make things right,” Miller said.
An investigation into January's incident revealed the incident began when the driver entered I-29 from Highway 273 and had driven nearly seven miles in the wrong direction. Once Miller got the driver, who was disoriented, to stop his vehicle, Miller stayed with him until troopers arrived. He then cleared his truck from blocking the lanes and traffic was allowed to resume.
No injuries or accidents were reported in the incident.