Kevin Miller was born addicted to crack cocaine and spent his childhood in the foster care system before one of his counselors adopted him when he was a teenager. Even though Kevin grew up in Miami, where water is plentiful, learning how to swim wasn’t a priority for him because security, stability, and the necessities of life were the main day-to-day focuses.
Kevin enlisted in the U.S. Army as an adult and served on deployments to Kosovo and twice in Iraq before he settled in central Indiana and became an army recruiter.
Here in Indiana, Kevin recently decided to compete for and earn the German Army Proficiency Badge, which is an award for soldiers that puts their fitness and military training skills to the test. Obtaining the badge on one’s uniform entails passing a moral evaluation, First-Aid course, protective clothing test, and field tests — which include tests of fitness, marksmanship, a foot march, and a 100-meter swim in full military uniform.
The swimming portion scared Kevin, because he never learned how to as a kid.
With the help of Fishers YMCA and its swim instructors, Kevin took to the water. Kevin signed up for swim lessons eight weeks before the event.
"I told myself if I don't address the things that [instill] fear in me the most, I'm never going to live," Kevin said. "Challenges and obstacles build character, and I truly do believe that. Most people go through situations that make them stronger, make them tougher."
Learning how to swim was tough in the beginning — so much so that Kevin called the organizers of the German Army Proficiency Badge test after his third lesson. He told them that he didn’t think he was going to make it.
However, he persevered.
“In my head I didn’t think it was possible, but [then] I was going off of instinct,” he said. “[Then] I knew it was possible.”
On the day of the competition, Kevin succeeded in his goal. Of the 300 soldiers that entered this competition, Kevin was one of 120 who finished. Not only that, this competition also ranks by gold, silver, and bronze standards. Kevin was one of 25 soldiers to be awarded gold.