|Medal of Valor Awarded to Pittston City Natives|
Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA 21 February 2013 by Bill O'Boyle:
Vice President Joe Biden awarded Pennsylvania troopers Robert Lombardo and the late Joshua Miller Public Safety Officer Medals of Valor Wednesday – the highest national award for bravery by a public safety officer – during a White House ceremony.
The medal is awarded to officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life.
Including Wednesday’s 18 honorees, a total of 78 medals have been presented since the first recipients were honored in 2003. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder co-presented the awards.
Lombardo, of Pittston, attended the ceremony to accept his medal and Miller’s wife, Angela, accepted for her late husband. Biden gave an emotional speech to the honorees, thanking them for their “rare commitment to bravery.” He spoke directly to Angela Miller at the start of his address.
“My heart goes out to you,” Biden said. “I know your pain. I’ve lost a spouse and a daughter. I know that this is an incredibly bittersweet moment for you.”
Miller sat in the first row and wiped tears from her eyes as Biden talked about firefighters and police officers and their 24/7 commitment to protecting the public.
Again he looked at Miller and spoke.
“You will have all the police and firefighters in your community looking out for you and your kids for the rest of your life,” Biden said.
Angela Miller said it was emotional for her and her three daughters – Justine, 19, Breana, 16, and Joslyn, 6 – but she said the ceremony and Biden’s comments were impressive and very special.
“I’m absolutely honored that Josh was selected to receive this medal,” she said, “To think a complete stranger heard Josh and Robby’s (Lombardo) story and felt they were deserving of this honor means so much. It touched me deeply.”
Trooper Miller, of Pittston Township, was gunned down on June 7, 2009, when he and other state troopers helped rescue a 9-year-old boy from a kidnapper near Tobyhanna. He and his partner Lombardo, who was shot and recovered, rescued a boy kidnapped at gunpoint from his mother. The incident began with a car chase in Northampton County after the boy’s father kidnapped his son.
After Wednesday’s ceremony, Angela Miller said she was humbled to attend. She came away impressed by the stories of the “amazing people with incredible stories of unselfish acts they did for people.”
She said the ceremony was a “very proud moment for her and her girls.
“For the vice president to sincerely express his feelings and to know he has been through a lot himself was very touching,” she said.
Angela Miller now lives in her hometown of Laceyville, Wyoming County, across from the cemetery where Josh is buried.
In presenting the medals to Lombardo and Miller, a detailed account of the incident was read into the record.
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, attended the ceremony and said the honors bestowed on the two men were fitting.
“The Medal of Valor will not replace those we have lost, but it does let these police officers, state troopers, firefighters and corrections officers know how strongly our nation feels about their selfless acts,” Cartwright said. “Trooper Lombardo, fallen Trooper Miller and their families are true heroes and I was honored to be a part of the ceremony.”
Lombardo, of Pittston, said he was honored to be recognized, but he doesn’t consider himself a hero.
“The people that make the ultimate sacrifice are the true heroes,” he said. “This happens every single day throughout the country – there are police and firefighters who put their lives on the line every single day. Obviously Josh deserves it more than anybody.”
Lombardo’s brother, John, was killed with Leonard Insalaco 20 years ago when fighting a fire in Pittston. He said he knows what it feels like to lose a family member.
“I was proud to be there to represent the Pennsylvania State Police,” he said. “We have had 94 guys killed in the line of duty.”
In October, Miller was honored when the U.S. Postal Service renamed the Pittston Post Office the Trooper Joshua Miller Post Office.
At the ceremony, words such as integrity, bravery, inspirational, courageous and selfless were used to describe Miller. Lombardo attended the ceremony, along with U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, members of Miller’s family, his friends, state police Commissioner Frank Noonan and dozens of state troopers, postal service representatives and state and local elected officials.
Miller was a 1992 Pittston Area High School graduate.
At the ceremony, Angela Miller said her husband became everything he was because of his drive and inner strength. “He never gave up,” she said. “He always gave 110 percent.”
Miller was 34 when he died. Since 2009, the stretch of Route 611 where the gun battle occurred has been designated the Trooper Joshua D. Miller Memorial Highway.
Then-Gov. Ed Rendell awarded him a posthumous Medal of Honor. Miller has been honored with golf tournaments, softball tournaments and motorcycle runs in his name to benefit his widow and daughters.