'Face Of War' Speaks

Of all the images coming from iraq, few are more powerful than the photo by Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco of an American Marine on patrol during the assault on Fallujah.

This past weekend, the Marine in the photo came home to his native Jonancy, Kentucky, and The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith was there to greet him.

The fighting in Iraq has been defined by the bravery of anonymous men and women, but suddenly, last November, valor had a face. And a name: Marine Lance Corporal James Blake Miller, who came to be known as "the Marlboro man."

Of the photo at the time, CBS News Correspondent Dan Rather asked his audience on the CBS Evening News, "Did you see it? The best war photograph of recent years is in many newspapers today. …See it, study it, absorb it. Think about it. Then take a deep breath of pride. And if your eyes don't dampen, you're a better man or woman than I."

His picture, it seemed, appeared in every paper in the country.

The added attention brought no special privilege, Smith reports. Miller served his entire combat tour before he and his buddies were ordered home.

His home is in the Kentucky hills. His mother's house is in a modest trailer park.

Miller's mother, Maxie, had been waiting for this day, when her son would return home, for more than a year. For her, the past few months have been excruciating: "I think that was one of my greatest fears, was somebody knocking on my door. It's like you want to get to the door, but you don't want to open the door. And you never want that van to pull up," she said, shaking her head.

But the official van never showed, the knock never came. And on this day, a long-awaited pickup truck pulled up the driveway.

There are moments for which no words are sufficient. And this was one of them.

The two hugged intensely.

"What is it like to be in this house now?" Smith asked Blake Miller.

"It is truly unreal," he responded.

"You're sitting as close as physically possible to your mom," Smith noticed.

"It's amazing," Blake Miller said. "Marines don't share very much emotion, even in rough times, but it's nice to know you can come home and share that."

"Did you leave some guys over there?"

"I lost a few of some of my dearest friends. And people don't understand how you can be so close to someone that you've only known for such a short time, but when you spend a year-and-a-half with someone, you know some things about them their own family doesn't even know about. People say that the Marine corps is a brotherhood and you truly do not realize that until you actually need your brothers. And that's when they're there."

Long before he was a combat-hardened Marine, Miller was a good-natured kid with a soft spot for the holidays. Smith and Miller spoke beside a lighted Christmas tree.

"A Christmas tree?" Smith wondered.

"I live for Christmas. I could care less if I ever get any gifts, but I live for the tree. And I dared them to take it down until I came home!"

There are actually two homes: Miller's parents are divorced. But he's still very close to his dad.

"Have you had a chance to see him yet?"

"Yeah, actually, I did. I came in and saw him first. Came in last night. Walked in and saw the Christmas tree and saw him just waiting. Just hugged him and stood with him for a good 10 minutes. Just silence. It was kind of like a conversation without even having to speak."

Miller puffed on a cigarette as we talked. But he says he's thinking about giving up his trademark habit.

"I actually made a bet with some guys that if i made it out of Fallujah alive, I'd quit. I don't know how it's going to work out. I'm trying, but I ain't gonna be able to quit cold turkey."

Miller may be called to Iraq again, Smith notes. His bravery is proven. But please, please don't call him a hero.

"Plenty of people feel you're a hero just for going," Smith told Miller.

"I ain't no hero," came the response. "That is one thing I wish could truly be clarified. I'm no more a hero than anyone over there. Every man, every woman that is not in the states, over there doing what they're doing…just to ensure that people here can enjoy their everyday life, and have the freedom that they do. They're all heroes."