Master Sgt. Stephanie Miller fills roles as mom, volunteer and military reservist

Felton’s Stephanie Miller wears a lot of hats: wife, mother, student, teacher, volunteer, military reservist.

Each fits her well.

Miller is a master sergeant with the Air Force Reserve’s 709th Airlift Squadron at Dover Air Force Base, and like most traditional reservists, she’s used to juggling a lot of responsibilities. In addition to her military duties and those requiring her attention at home, Miller donates much of her free time to helping others inside and outside the military community.

“I think she really has a heart for people,” said Miller’s friend, Misdee Stallings. “I think that if she’s in a position to help people, she wants to do that.”

Miller joined the Air Force after high school as a way to get out and see the world. Following training as a finance and accounting specialist, she made it as far as dry and dusty Dyess AFB, outside Abilene, Texas.

“That was a real culture shock, I guess I could say,” she revealed. “They were very nice people, but it was just a lot slower than what I was used to.

“I was away from home and that was really hard.”

But it gave Miller her first taste of what it was like to help others. She started working with other airmen at Dyess to help the elderly, an experience that proved invaluable when her father himself required hospice care. She received a special assignment to Dover to help her family deal with the crisis.

At Dover she took the opportunity to retrain as a C-5 loadmaster after having had the chance to go on a special Africa mission.

“The camaraderie of the crew, I felt like they really were a family. That attracted me,” she said. “It was a whole different world than finance. As soon as I got back, I put in my paperwork.”

After retraining, Miller returned to Dover, then went to Oklahoma and later was again assigned to Dover.

Soon after returning to Delaware, she married fellow reservist Jay Miller. The couple and his children soon were joined by sons Noah, now 6, and Jude, now 5.

The new family situation meant Miller had to decide whether to stay on active duty or transfer to the reserves.

“I decided I could not give up the job I loved so much, but I also loved my family,” she said. “This was a good compromise. We decided I’d stay at home, raise the kids and homeschool them.”

That decision made it harder to continue her volunteer work, but Miller said she was determined to find a way.

This winter she volunteered to spend some overnights at a women’s shelter, an experience that touched her deeply, she said.

“I met a really nice girl who was pregnant. We just talked about what it was like to live on the street,” Miller said.

“In a way it made me feel helpless,” she said. “But I’m glad I was able to give some time because I don’t have much else to give.”

Miller has worked with the children of military personnel to help them learn what their parents do and why they do it.

“It helps the kids understand what the military does and gives them an appreciation of it, especially when they’re living in a military community,” she said.

All of her obligations means Miller must carefully budget her time.

“I burn the midnight oil a lot,” she admits.

“Stephanie is just selfless,” Stallings said. “She rolls with things really well and if something pops up, she’s very flexible. She doesn’t let herself get stuck.”

Working with their church group, Stallings said Miller has helped put on birthday celebrations for shelter children, raised cash for women’s crisis clinics and volunteers in the church nursery.

Miller tries to sync her flying duties – she must go on a mission at least once every eight weeks – with Noah and Jude’s schooling. She must spend a week or two on occasional flights to the Middle East. She works in time to study – she’s five classes away from a psychology degree – and time for her required squadron duties.

“It’s a tremendous workload that she juggles, and I think she does it more successfully than most,” noted Lt. Col. Mike DeSantis, commander of the 512th Operations Group, of which her unit is a part.

Miller volunteers extensively on base and trains new loadmasters, DeSantis said.

“I consider her the backbone of our traditional reservist force,” he said. “It’s people like her that really do the important work of the reserves, and we’re lucky to have her.”

Miller herself is buoyed in all this activity by her strong faith.

“I do feel that something God has given us is a spirit of love,” she said. “If I can give a little bit of time, if it helps someone, then I’m spreading the light so to speak, giving hope to the hopeless.

“That girl I talked to in the shelter, she didn’t have a lot of hope, but that night she had a warm shelter and a meal. That was fulfilling.”

As for the future, “every day I ask myself what I want to do,” Miller said.

“I love psychology and I love the thought of helping people,” she said. “I was on the way to getting a nursing degree and I’d love to finish that. But I do know I’ll still be flying. Other than that, I’m not quite sure. Wherever it is, it will be where God leads me.”