U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Keith Anthony Miller grew up in East Islip with a dream of joining the military someday. It was a proud moment for Miller and his family when he became a Marine in 2012 and eventually became a radar technician stationed at an air base in Yuma, Arizona.
"He wanted to serve his country," recalled his mother, Margie. "It was something he always wanted to do."
To family and others who knew him, Keith appeared to be an affable young man who enjoyed rock music, rooting for the Yankees, and riding on his Fatboy Harley-Davidson motorcycle. But the young Marine's inner emotional turmoil apparently never went away, they said.
On Sept. 1, Miller, 22, took his own life near Lake Martinez, Arizona, while on evening leave from the Marine base, said Staff Sgt. John Grigg. The Marine called Yuma County law enforcement officials, telling them of his intent to take his own life, Grigg said. Although Marine authorities are reviewing the circumstances surrounding the death, Grigg confirmed that "he [Miller] committed suicide" and left a note to that effect.
A spokesman for the Yuma County Sheriff's Office, Alfonso Zavala, confirmed that Miller's death was determined by authorities to be a suicide.
In a written statement, the Miller family described Keith as an intelligent, kindhearted and generous soul, who was "beautiful inside and out, yet he hid his inner turmoil." There were no apparent signs of their son's desperation, they said. "We now know that our love was not enough to shield him from the pain that he felt inside," said the Marine's survivors -- his mother, Margie, his father, Keith and his sister, Autumn -- in the statement.
The family agreed to talk about Keith Miller's death as a way, they said, of helping others to become more alert to the signs of suicide among loved ones.
In an interview, Margie said her son graduated from East Islip High School in 2010, where he did well in classes and was a wrestler for one season. As a young boy, Keith Miller also participated in Boy Scouts, Little League and the Civil Air Patrol. During his teenage years, she said, he went to a therapist for some emotional issues. "After the sessions , he was fine," she recalled. He showed no noticeable trouble signs as an adult, she added.
"We've called his friends in Yuma -- everyone is in complete shock and no one saw signs that it [suicide] was happening," his mother said.
While in the Marines, Grigg said, Miller had showed no signs of emotional difficulties and none had been detected in the annual mental health screenings that the Corps provides to service members. "He was a kid who loved life," Grigg said of Miller.
Visiting will be tomorrow and Sunday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Fredrick J. Chapey & Sons Funeral Home in East Islip. A celebration of the Liturgy of Christian Burial will follow at St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church in Islip Terrace on Monday at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be at Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton.