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Selfless Among Us: Married Air Force vets on a mission for veteran mental healthcare

Cindy and Chad Miller, married Air Force veterans from Clarence Center, are going to great lengths to help fellow vets who are mentally suffering on the homefront.

CLARENCE, N.Y. — Chad and Cynthia Miller of Clarence Center were married in 2011, and their shared passion for serving their country was perhaps their greatest bond.

"We say our honeymoon was to Afghanistan because we got married and we got deployed two or three months later," Cindy Miller laughed.

Cindy Miller served two tours of duty as a medic in Afghanistan. Her husband, Chad, a tech sergeant whose mission as a gunner was to protect military convoys, was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf five times. Now, in their mid-30s, they are busy parents of three young children, and Air Force veterans who continue to share the same passion: helping fellow veterans get the mental healthcare they desperately need. 

"There is a lot of depression, a lot of anxiety,  a lot of suicidal ideation in veterans. Twenty-two veterans are ending their lives every day, which is awful and needs to stop," said Cindy Miller, a behavioral health nurse practitioner. 

She recently opened her own private practice on Sheridan Drive in Williamsville called Strong Minds. She said any veteran who walks through her door, regardless of their ability to pay, will be able to get help from someone who can relate.

"There's this huge shortage of providers who have any sort of military experience and I think that's where the gap in care is," she said. "When you're trying to explain to a provider what you've experienced when you've deployed, nobody can relate to that unless they've really lived that. Let me help you, because I've been there. I can relate and I have the ability to help."

Cindy Miller said when veterans finally muster the courage to seek help, there shouldn't be barriers in the way to treatment.

"A lot of veterans don't have any type of health insurance or they have a really high copay or deductible and so that prevents them from getting any type of services. I myself tried to get services with the VA and was turned down," she said. "Even when you finally take the step to say, 'OK, I'm ready to talk to somebody,' you can't even get the help. So any veteran that I see, I don't take any sort of payment from them. It's just about a vet connecting with a vet, being able to help each other and that's it."

Chad Miller admits he needed that help himself. 

"It was a constant barrage of mortars and rockets for months at a time, and you'd go from high anxiety deployment, back home trying to adjust and struggling adjusting," he said. "In 2019, I came out and admitted to attempting to take my own life in 2009 and again in 2018 where I was in a low spot and was suffering with suicidal ideations. Being vulnerable is not a weakness. Talking about things and moving forward is the way to go."

See a previous WGRZ feature on Chad Miller here.

Chad Miller is moving forward by sharing his story and pushing his body.

He's getting ready to row 3,000 miles in a race across the Atlantic Ocean in December with three of his Air Force comrades on the Fight OAR Die team.

Chad Miller says the nearly two month long mission is going beyond just raising money and awareness of veterans mental health. He wants to inspire vets to find their purpose.

"Yes, you did a lot of good things, don't ever lose sight of that, but that was before, what are you doing now?" Chad Miller said.

As for what Chad Miller is doing now, in addition to training with his team for the race - they hope to complete it in 49 days to set a new world record - he's a busy stay-at-home dad, volunteering with several veterans organizations, and entering his second year of nursing school to specialize in veterans mental healthcare, just like Cindy does. 

The Millers are a selfless couple, sacrificing so much to support fellow veterans and each other.

 "Our relationship, there's no way we could be any stronger because we've gone through war together," said Cindy Miller. 

To contact Cindy Miller at Strong Minds, click here. 

To learn more about Chad's Fight OAR Die mission, click here.

If you know someone who should be featured on WGRZ as one of the "Selfless Among Us," email Melissa.Holmes@wgrz.com.

To see others featured in the series, click the videos below.

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