Jay Jaynes was raised to have a healthy respect for the men and women who served in the military. One of his uncles fought in the Battle of the Bulge, while another served in the Pacific theater of World War II. His father and Jaynes' third uncle fought in the Korean War. That uncle never returned.
"That means something," Jaynes said. "My mother always wondered what would have happened if Bucky had come home."
Victor Miller also served in Korea as a flight electrician for the U.S. Marine Corps. When he spoke at the Oct. 18 council meeting; Jaynes listened.
"He was dressed in a suit and tie with a marine emblem on his jacket... this man stood at attention and addressed the council very civilly. It just struck me," Jaynes said during a later interview.
Miller was asking the council to explain why he was being charged penalties on his utility bill and receiving a hang tag every month, despite the fact he was making payments on time. It appears, based on the a listing of his utility bills and payments, that he missed one payment in 2008 and from then on was constantly paying bills one month behind schedule.
Without realizing it, the penalties, late fees and $15 hang tag fees were accumulating a debt he couldn't pay with his monthly Social Security check. As utility bills increased because of the recently colder winter and hotter summer, Miller found himself staring at a $1,000 balance.
"Hearing the man talk, I realized we only have a few WWII vets left. Our Korean vets are aging. I think it's our charge to take care of them," Jaynes said. "I served in the U.S. during the Vietnam War. It means something to me... he's on Social Security, living month to month. That did something to me."
While Miller was able to pay off some of the balance, he didn't have the resources to handle the remaining $650. Jaynes did and he gave Miller a fresh start.
"Mr. Jaynes is wonderful. We had a nice talk, I gave him a hug. I didn't know how to get out of (the debt). Going to speak to the mayor and council turned out to be a blessing," Miller said.
Reaching for the Sky
Miller was born and raised in Harlem, New York, where he attended elementary, middle and high school, excelling in math and science, and learned how to speed skate, ride horses and play tennis at one of the local recreation centers.
Following his high school graduation, Miller wasn't sure what he wanted to do in life. However, as he was considering his options, the U.S. Army was drafting young men into its ranks and was working its way down the state.
"The army had no flair to it. I had buddies in the Marine Corps. If I have to go , I want to be taught the best," Miller said. "I didn't want that wishy-washy boy scout stuff. The Marine Corps was rough."
He was trained at the Marine's facility on Parris Island, S.C. They trained the soldiers using live ammunition, including an exercise where the trainees stormed the beach under fire. During training around 10 soldiers were killed.
"They didn't play games, this was the real thing. The most frightening part was throwing grenades. I knew once I pulled that pin out that was it. I was scared to death. We would have to throw it and then dive down into a hole, then hear it explode," he said. "They train you to kill. We were trained killer. It's not easy. Your mindset has to change."
Miller also had the challenge of being the only black man in his highly technical engineering classes. He was responsible for maintaining all of the plane's electrical systems and worked on so many planes he learned to tell them apart by sound alone.
"My job was to keep planes flying over the 38th Parallel," he said.
While in Korea, he lost many good friends, particularly once the Chinese entered the war. He believes to this day that if the war had continued and Chinese had pursued their push into Korea they would have driven the Americans out. The war ended with an armistice in 1953.
Miller said he was treated poorly after the war, when several airplane companies declined to hire him as a flight technician because he was black, despite his advanced training and practical experience.
"I said ‘I fought for the country, so you could have the freedom to work these jobs'," he said.
Miller eventually worked for the Lockheed Corporation at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Later in life, he switched to insurance sales and also taught math and science at the high school level. He moved to Covington four years ago after his son, who works in real estate, found Miller and his wife a nice home in North Covington.
Now Miller spends his time trying to break into a new industry. He is trying to start up a logo business and also works with companies to unload excess inventory.
He's also recently become a point of referral for anyone looking for a car.
"If I know somebody looking to buy a car, I will send them to (Jaynes)," Miller said.
Jaynes is the owner of Honda of Conyers. For his part, Jaynes, who is also a newer resident, said he plans to continue to become involved in the community and will always be a supporter of veterans. He's hoping to start a project to find all area veterans and have them interviewed on video to save their stories.
"If God gives us the ability, we need to help people. My mother always told me you never look down at a man unless you're reaching out a helping hand," he said.