“The impact that Tom made on me will stay with me forever,” said his step-daughter, Jessica Dowdal, a Freedom Alliance Scholarship recipient, and a rising sophomore at Michigan State University, where she is majoring in Anthropology. “Tom died for a cause he believed in so strongly… and I now understand what it means to fight for a cause … because of my step-father’s sacrifice.” Captain Lowell Thomas ‘Tom’ Miller, II, gave his life on August 31, 2005, in Iskandariyah, Iraq, when his military training team was conducting operations with the Iraqi Army and they came under attack by enemy forces.
Tom’s father recounted that his son “was a soldiers’ soldier. He always took care of his men and never gave thought for his own safety.” In fact, Tom had volunteered to join the Mississippi National Guard so that he could be deployed to Iraq.
“It was where he felt he was best needed,” said Eric Leszczynski, who had known Tom for nearly a decade. “He did this for love of country and for duty.”
On the night of his death, Tom had not wanted a team of newly-trained Iraqi soldiers to go on a dangerous night mission alone. He accompanied the group, but they were ambushed and shot. Tom was the recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his service to our country.
In spite of the tragedy Jessica has faced, she has excelled, graduating high school with honors: Cumma Sum Laude, serving as an assistant baseball coach, and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
She is studying anthropology to understand the cultures and lifestyles of others. Jessica hopes that “instead of war, we might learn to better understand each other and resolve differences without taking up arms.” After obtaining her degree, she plans to join the Peace Corps. “Tom inspired me to do this,” she wrote. “I want to see a world where it is not necessary to die.”
Jessica was just 13 years old at the time of Tom’s death. Her brother, Jordan, was 6, and her step-siblings, Danielle, and Alexandra, were 11 and 7. Jessica is eligible to renew her Freedom Alliance Scholarship each year in college, and Jordan, Danielle and Alexandra will also be eligible for Freedom Alliance Scholarships when they go to college.
“It is both an honor and a privilege to receive this scholarship. It is a constant reminder of the impact of my step-father’s sacrifice,” Jessica said.