LEGACY OF SERVICE: Feb. 1 – 28, commissary, exchange patrons can enter sweepstakes to win scholarships honoring Pearl Harbor hero
FORT LEE, Va. – Doris “Dorie” Miller, a cook aboard the battleship USS West Virginia, went down in history when he carried wounded shipmates to safety, manned a machinegun and engaged enemy planes during the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
In observance of Black History Month, military resale patrons will be eligible to enter a sweepstakes that honors Miller’s legacy as the first African-American sailor to be awarded the Navy Cross.
Through the “Celebrates Your Service” sweepstakes, sponsored by Coca-Cola in partnership with DeCA, Nabisco and the USO, authorized commissary and exchange customers can participate for a chance to win one grand prize of a $5,000 scholarship or one of three $1,000 scholarships. Coca-Cola’s www.cokeplaytowin.com webpage will be active Feb. 1 for more sweepstakes information.
“Celebrates Your Service” is exclusive to the military channel, said Michael Pelletier, senior customer marketing manager for the Coca-Cola Company’s Global U.S. Military Team. As a military resale industry partner to the commissaries and exchanges, Coca-Cola hopes promotions like this help encourage the military community to shop on base. They also see an obligation to echo the legacies of heroic African-American service members during Black History Month.
“When we created this Black History Month platform three years ago, we knew we had something special,” Pelletier said. “As I’ve had the opportunity to talk to service members, retirees, and even some Tuskegee Airmen it’s become a passion project.
“Our young service members need to hear about the real accomplishments of extraordinary African Americans in American military history and take that inspiration to channel it for themselves,” he added. “With talent, hard work, and an overall desire to be great and to do great things; you can do it.”
Military resale patrons will see contest displays in their local commissaries and exchanges. There is no purchase required to participate. There are two ways to enter:
- Text message. From Feb. 1-28, participants can text the keyword “SERVICE” to the short code 26739. Then, input the requested information to confirm their date of birth. Once their eligibility is confirmed they will receive one entry into the sweepstakes.
- Online. During the promotion period, participants can visit www.cokeplaytowin.com/service and follow the links and instructions to complete and submit the registration form, including providing a valid home address. P.O. Boxes are not permitted. Once the form is received participants will receive one entry into the sweepstakes.
“Dorie Miller’s actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor represent the best traditions of our military,” said Marine Sgt. Maj. Michael R. Saucedo, senior enlisted advisor to the DeCA director. “Today we stand on the shoulders of heroes like Miller, and the Defense Commissary Agency is proud to help share their stories and help our customers compete for scholarships.”
When Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, Miller was below deck aboard the battleship USS West Virginia cleaning laundry. When the bombs started dropping, he made it to the main deck and helped to remove wounded sailors – one being the ship’s captain.
In those days, black sailors segregated to the stewards’ branch, were not trained to fire weapons aboard ship, so it was Miller’s first time operating a machine gun when he started firing at the planes. Various news reports credited Miller with shooting down several planes but none of those reports were confirmed.
Miller’s legacy is marked by several historic milestones:
- He is the first African-American sailor to be awarded the Navy Cross. Adm. Chester W. Nimitz, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, presented the award to Miller personally on May 7, 1942.
- Miller’s image appeared on a Navy recruiting poster, and in November 1942 the Navy returned him to the States for two months to promote war bonds.
- On Nov. 24 1943, Miller perished with nearly 650 of his shipmates when a Japanese submarine torpedoed his ship, USS Liscome Bay, during the Battle of Gilbert Islands. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.
- Shortly after Miller died, the Navy began an officer-training program for black sailors and in March 1944 the service commissioned its first black officers, known as the Golden Thirteen.
- The Navy honored Miller by naming a dining hall, a barracks, and a destroyer escort for him. A YMCA branch, a park and a cemetery are also named after him in his hometown of Waco, Texas. Elementary schools in Houston and Philadelphia, and a Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter in Los Angeles also bear his name.
- The Doris Miller Foundation in Chicago honors those who make exceptional contributions to racial understanding.
- On Jan. 20, 2020, the U.S. Navy officially named its future Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier, the USS Doris Miller (CVN 81).
“Dorie Miller stood for everything that is good about our nation,” said then Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly during the Navy’s ceremony announcing the naming of the future aircraft carrier. “His story deserves to be remembered and repeated wherever our people continue to stand the watch today.”
About DeCA: The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Commissaries provide a military benefit, saving authorized patrons thousands of dollars annually on their purchases compared to similar products at commercial retailers. The discounted prices include a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.