Times Herald-Record

High Falls — Brian Miller describes himself as an amateur historian. The 57-year-old especially likes to research World War II and its connections to local history. But this time, it's the writing on the wall that puzzles him.

Last September, Miller visited an apartment building in Scole, England. Locals called it "The Terrace." Soldiers scrawled their name, rank, town and service dates on the bricks. One brick was inscribed only with "Goshen, N.Y." To the left of it are the dates "6/2/43" and "1/26/45."

Then the Millers went to The Swan at Lavenham. It's a restaurant with a wall that is filled with signatures from soldiers fighting in World War II.

During the war, many of the GIs would enjoy some relaxation at the local pubs and restaurants in England before they went on a mission the next day. Today, restaurants and pub owners in England often cover the names on the wall with plexiglass to preserve them.

Miller's wife, Kathleen, was the first to spot a local name at The Swan. It was "Robert Worden — Port Jervis."

"These kids wanted to leave a remembrance and say, 'I was here,'" said Miller. "This graffiti connected them, in a sense that tomorrow they might go out and never come back. Sometimes they never found the bodies. Here today and gone tomorrow."

Miller became interested in World War II as a boy since his father loved to do research on the war. Miller's father wasn't enlisted as a soldier because of a medical condition, but he contributed to the war by working in an arsenal in Ohio.

Miller was never a veteran himself. He isn't old enough to know any of the World War II soldiers, but still he can picture them in their uniforms, so young and far away from home. They risked their lives. Some died in service, taking their memories of the war with them. Others decided never to talk about it with their families. Now that these soldiers are in their golden years, the stories might disappear altogether.

That's why Miller fights to keep the memories alive and is lucky that his own past has allowed him to continue his hobby.

Brian and Kathleen moved to New Jersey in 1977 with their children. His neighbors were from England, and they became friends. Over the years, the neighbors went back to England. The Millers moved to Ulster County, but they all stayed in touch and visited each other over the years. It was during these visits that Miller continued his father's World War II research.

Each trip to Europe gets tougher and tougher for Miller. In 1996, Miller was diagnosed with Kennedy's disease, or spinal bulbar muscular atrophy. It is a neurological muscular illness affecting mobility.

Still, Miller enjoys the search and has written two (unpublished) booklets on World War II. He expects to go to the East Anglia section of England in the fall and will look for more local names among the bricks and walls.

He says if local residents know of World War II soldiers who were stationed in that area, he will try to locate their names and take pictures of the signatures for them.

Miller would like to know if the soldier from Goshen, N.Y., who carved his service dates on the building in Scole is still alive.

He is also hoping that someone from Port Jervis might know Robert Worden (the name might also be spelled Warden).

After all, it would be great to put a face with a name.

To contact Brian Miller about a veteran's name, e-mail him at roofmill@aol.com.