The Shafter Press - Serving the community since 1922

By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Girl tells a tale of tragedy, triumph


Courtesy Trista Miller

Robert Banks in what might have been the armored vehicle he was driving when he was killed.

Trista Miller, the 11-year-old granddaughter of former Shafter residents Richard and Robin Miller, competed in the National History Day competition and won second place with a riveting tale of tragedy and triumph, a tale that hit close to home for the entire family. Her project is now moving on to the state finals, which will be held next month.

Richard Miller was friends with Robert "Bob" Banks, both teenagers, scared, going to fight in a war that a lot of the country did not want. They were sent in different directions after training, both assigned to different sections. They went into the army on the buddy system. The Shafter boys didn't know what to expect and were becoming men with on-the-job training.

Bob Banks was killed while driving a vehicle during heavy artillery and IUD fire. Richard, not knowing what had happened, was called into the headquarters' office. He was told that Robert Banks had been killed in the line of duty and his parents wanted Miller to escort his body back to the United States.

Touching down in Oakland to a lukewarm reception at best, Miller boarded a train, escorting his friend's body back home. At the time, the train normally did not stop in Shafter. The conductor was surprised when he found out that the train would be making a special stop.

The two arrived in the town, and the reception was overwhelming, with seemingly the entire town there. Banks was laid to rest and was honored posthumously with several awards

Banks' father worked for the County Assessor's Office at the time and wrote a letter strongly encouraging the U.S. Army to allow Miller to serve the rest of his tour in the United States, instead of being sent back. The request was granted, and Trista thinks that Banks' sacrifice allowed their family tree to grow to what it is now. Here is an excerpt from Gold Oak sixth-grader's award-winning essay:

"I honor Robert A. Banks not only because he was a brave and respected soldier and friend, but also because I believe wholeheartedly that his sacrifice led to the ability of my Papa, who 'had run out of options and didn't have a life at home and had no other real place to go' (Richard Miller) just two years earlier, to both make it to his 20th birthday and to come home safely to fulfill the second part of his life's path: to move onward and upward.

Courtesy Trista Miller

Robert Banks and Richard Miller before they were sent to separate parts of the war.

"It was not an easy journey, but today Richard is a proud and honored Vietnam veteran and local Idaho resident, a place he wanted to call home for over 20 years before finally getting here. He's an active and engaged father and grandfather, active with the VA, and participates regularly in Veteran's Day activities and Memorial Day activities, honoring all the lives of those lost -- especially Banks', whose sacrifice portrayed victory in others.

'So many, many lives were lost in the Vietnam War -- and I would


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