Honor Flight brings best friends full circle

Port High classmates Bob Roob and Ken Miller enlisted in the Army together, served together and last month took a special trip to Washington, D.C., together

LONGTIME BEST BUDDIES from Port Washington High School, Ken Miller (left) and Bob Roob, who enlisted in the Army together and served together, posed in Washington, D.C, during a May 20 Stars and Stripes Honor Flight.
Ozaukee Press staff

They enlisted together. They served together, and now the military careers of high school friends Bob Roob and Ken Miller have come full circle.

The two went on the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight together on May 20. They even sat next to each other on the plane ride to Washington, D.C., and back.

“We got to sit together. It was just fantastic,” Miller said.

“We wanted to go together,” Roob said.

“I had the window seat and here he is in the middle seat.”

Roob and Miller have been friends since meeting as seniors at Port Washington High School in 1955. Miller moved from Newburg to West Bend to Saukville as his mother ran grocery stores that the owners kept selling to other people. He finally landed in Port, where he and Roob got to know each other.

Both graduated from Port High in 1956 and joined the Army in 1957. They enlisted so they wouldn’t have to wait for their names to be called during the draft.

They did their basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and trained at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. Everyone pushed to be the top-ranked member of the class and choose where they wanted to serve — Hawaii was the most desirable spot. Roob ranked No. 3 out of 500. He chose Europe over the Far East and the Aleutian Islands near Alaska, and Miller also went abroad.

Roob and Miller were in the Army Security Agency, which was later folded into military intelligence.

They served in Germany after a 13-day trip on the Atlantic Ocean and “I haven’t been on a goddarn boat since,” Roob said.

That’s where the two split up for a couple of years. Miller went to Herzogenaurach, a former Luftwaffe base that today is the headquarters of Adidas. Roob went to Kassel, where the Brothers Grimm used to live.

They both had top-secret clearance, hence neither could go into details about their jobs. They worked six days on, three days off for 25 months.

“When we had three days off, let me tell you, Kassel was never the same,” Roob said.

Roob worked on Russian and Poland missions. By crossing Morse Code points, he could follow Russian troops.

“The Russians knew where we were” in the early days of the Cold War, he said.

Roob was sent home two days before Miller.

“I got a plane ticket, which is what you pray for,” he said.

Roob was offered a job with the National Security Agency, but he turned it down since he wasn’t told where he would be stationed. Miller also left the Army.

The two were first debriefed at the Great Lakes Naval Station near Chicago.

“That’s where you forget everything you learned,” Roob said.

Roob and Miller both began work at Kieckhaefer Marine in Cedarburg, which later became Mercury Marine. Miller stayed at the company, moving to Sheboygan and Fond du Lac, while Roob went to work for Freeman Chemical in Saukville for 39 years, leading safety initiatives at 11 plants.

They got married the same year — they were each other’s best man — and have been married for 62 years. Roob’s wife Barb was Ken’s wife Carol’s best friend.

Roob, 84, still lives in Port while Miller, 86, lives in Plymouth. They stay in touch and get together when they can.

Neither will ever forget the Honor Flight, which takes veterans on a tour of national landmarks in a whirlwind day. Both had been to Washington, D.C., but not like this. They hung around each other all day and at one point found an ice cream truck, “which was important,” Barb said. They later learned that one of their friends from Port who lives near Seattle, Nic Bley, was on an Honor Flight that day as well, but they didn’t bump into each other.

Two of their sons were their guardians, who accompany veterans as helpers.

Roob loved the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“If you didn’t have tears in your eyes before, you had it then,” he said.

Neither Roob or Miller expected the hundreds of people who greeted them at the airport in Washington, D.C., and the homecoming in Milwaukee took them aback.

“That was a complete surprise. I had no idea,” Roob said.

“It was just unbelievable. My family — there had to be 40-some of us — they were all there,” Miller said.

“It was a long day. I think I was up 22 and a half hours, but it was worth it. It was one of the great experiences of my life.”


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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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