Local veteran wins big after overcoming obstacles

HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) — John Miller nervously stepped onto the Grandstand stage at the Erie County Fair Sunday night.

“I try to avoid the limelight,” said Miller, who is a Staff Sergeant in the New York State National Guard.

Knowing that about her fiance, Christine Beichner didn’t tell Miller she was nominating him for a contest.

“With John, he never talks about himself,” said Beichner. “He’s very modest.”

She told him a few weeks ago he was a finalist in the contest where Basil Dealerships partnered up with a local organization, looking to give away a car to a veteran — it is a giveaway called “Vehicles for Vets”.

They received more than 700 nominations and then chose nine veterans to draw random keys and see if the set they selected made the alarm go off.

Miller selected his set. He was the third person to push the alarm. And when it started going off, he says he was overwhelmed.

“I don’t know how to feel about this,” he said. “It is pretty fantastic.”

Miller says it is a day he will always remember.

He has had to go through a lot to get to that moment. It is something he rarely talks about but Beichner finds it notable and that is why she nominated him.

“I thought people could relate to that [John’s story],” Beichner said on why she nominated her fiance. “No matter what bad things happen, you really can come out a better person on the other side.”

Miller lives by the saying “The sweet isn’t as sweet without the bitter.” It is something he has lived by the last few years, getting him through major moments like the day his life changed in 2008.

“The day I was shot I was doing something I loved,” says Miller. “I was with people I loved and cared about. Everybody did their job and I was the only person injured so everyone worked hard, saved my life and got me out of there.”

Doctors saved his legs, rehabbed him and now Miller is walking.

Beichner says her fiance doesn’t share his story often and he doesn’t let the hard days keep him down.

“Even now, he can’t do everything that he used to do, at the level he would like to do them” she said. “He doesn’t let it bring him down. Just being around that kind of attitude, it makes you want to do better. He is the most kind, wonderful, giving human being.”

And that is exactly what he plans on doing with his new car.

“There are so many deserving people that could use a helping hand so I will do what I can with what I won to help others,” says Miller.

As if Miller’s day wasn’t exciting enough, he and Beichner say they both won big this week when Miller proposed to Beichner in Hawaii. The two say they’re excited to have a new set of wheels to drive to their venue to say their vows this fall.

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