By Rachel Leland
President Barack Obama approved a bill to rename the Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center after the first African-American to receive the Navy Cross, Waco resident Doris “Dorie” Miller on Dec. 19.
Miller received his Navy Cross, the third highest honor at the time he was awarded it in 1942 for his service in World War II.
The bill was introduced to the House by Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, and passed in June.
Flores decided to introduce the legislation when some Wacoans indicated they would like Miller, who was born in Waco, to be recognized for his military service and heroism during the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese kamikaze pilots.
Previously a mess hall cook on the USS West Virginia, Miller manned an anti-aircraft machine gun he was not trained to operate and is said to have shot down a plane.
Local business and city leaders approached the representative in his first term and told him that they wanted formal recognition for Miller.
“They wanted to try and have Dorie Miller recognized for his service to our country and his heroism,” Flores said.
Though Texas streets, schools and even a Waco YMCA also bear Miller’s name, Flores thought naming the medical center after Miller would be appropriate because of Miller’s heroism and military service.
“I wanted to have some federal recognition for him,” said Flores.
Sen. John Cornyn R-Texas introduced similar legislation to the Senate, which unanimously passed the bill in December.
There is no date set to rename the medical center, but a ceremony will be held when that is decided. Flores, who visited the Waco Veterans Affairs Medical Center as recently as December, said he plans to attend the ceremony.
“This ceremony should honor Doris Miller,” Flores said.