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Local veteran publishes first book

| May 21, 2020

In 1965, a small, pocket-size Bible was handed to a soldier heading for Vietnam.  In 2017, that same Bible was carried to Afghanistan by another soldier. The story of this Bible’s 50 plus year journey through seven soldiers and four foreign countries is told in the new book “Faith in War: The Soldiers Bible.” It is the debut book by West Lafayette native Zac Miller.

Miller grew up wanting to serve his country and, at the age of 17, he joined the Army National Guard with his parents’ consent. He was a small arms repairman for the National Guard until November 2016 when he became a Coshocton County Veteran Service Officer. He was deployed three times to the Middle East – the first time in 2004 and the last time in 2017-2018.

It was during his last deployment that he helped a friend, Joel Capelle, edit and proofread a book Capelle was writing about his military experiences. Miller realized he had a pretty good story and decided to write his book about the faith in a small Bible that seven men carried.

Jesse Maple was given the Bible by a Gideon as he left for Vietnam. He told Miller that he felt God watching over him while he was there and he returned home safely. When Jesse returned home, he found out his brother, Bill, was going to be leaving for Vietnam and he gave Bill the Bible and told him to keep it close.

Bill Maple returned home safely, too. When the Maples learned their close friend, Roger Hill was deploying for Vietnam, Jesse gave the Bible to him and again, told him to keep it close to him. Hill completed two tours of Vietnam with the Bible and returned safely each time. On his third tour, he forgot the Bible and asked his family to send it to him as he felt uneasy without it.

Before the Bible reached him, he was severely injured and flown out of Vietnam. The Bible was lost in the mail, but finally reached Hill while he was still in the hospital back in the United States. Hill gave the Bible back to Jesse when he was able, and Jesse held onto it until he heard of another soldier heading to war.

Jesse then gave the Bible to Cliff McPeak who carried the Bible with him when he went to Iraq in 2003. Again, the Bible kept him safe and he returned it to Jesse.  Miller then received the Bible for his first two tours in the Middle East. In 2010, he gave the Bible to his brother in law, Zac Allen, when he was deployed to Iraq. The Bible was then taken to Afghanistan by Will Allen, Zac’s brother. Every man that carried the Bible returned home safe.

Miller said he wanted to write the book because he felt the story was important and didn’t want it to be lost over time. “I still have the Bible. I only opened it once and it was so old, I was afraid to do it again. I received another pocket Bible from the Gideons in 2004 and I put them in a plastic bag together. I figured the good luck from the old Bible would rub off onto the new one.”

It took Miller about a year to write his book. “I came up with a list of questions and interviewed all of the men who carried the Bible. I found discharge papers, newspaper articles and proof of awards. Each chapter in the book is a different soldier’s story.”

He said after he wrote each chapter, he took it to the man the chapter was about and let him read it for accuracy. “They were pretty open about talking about their experiences. I didn’t capture every detail of their story. I shared some good and some bad. Everything in the book is accurate.”

After he wrote the book, Miller’s wife, Breann, read each chapter. “She told me I had to rewrite a lot of it because I used military acronyms or terms that she didn’t know. So there are a lot of places where I had to add what something meant. That took a little time – to edit the military terms so anyone could understand it.”

The seven men in the story completed 11 combat tours in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Some of the awards they earned include three bronze stars with a V device for valor, two purple hearts, two combat infantryman’s badges and a combat action badge.

Miller said his only regret about the book is that it didn’t include a picture of all seven men together. “I wanted that really bad, but the pandemic happened, and it wasn’t safe for us to be that close. Some of the men have health concerns and I didn’t want a picture together to be the reason they become sick with the virus.”  He hopes that sometime soon a picture can be taken of the group.

All seven men in the story are local men and still live in Coshocton County. “I didn’t want this story to be lost. I wanted my kids to know the story, in my words.”

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