Robert Clifford “Cliff” Millender, SP4, of Carrabelle, took a long road home after he was critically wounded in Vietnam in 1970. Losing consciousness after a land mine detonated near him in Vietnam, he was then transported to the Army’s Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he never regained consciousness and died months later.
But last Thursday, the Florida Legislature made sure Millender’s journey from his small hometown of Carrabelle through the jungles of southeast Asia and back home will be forever memorialized on a section of US Highway 98, the road running right through his hometown.
On the floor of the Florida House of Representatives May 3, State Representative Halsey Beshears led the applause for passage of the bill which honors Millender by naming a short stretch of US Highway 98 in Carrabelle, the “SP4 Robert Clifford Millender Memorial Highway,” after the fallen soldier.
Millender suffered serious injury as he helped a fellow soldier cross a muddy creek. His platoon sergeant Ken Boeri told the family he died helping others. “He died a hero, “ Boeri said.
The tragedy was compounded for the family when Millender’s mother had a massive stroke and died soon after learning of her son’s injury. Robert Millender’s sister Nita Millender Molsbee and brother Larry Millender were present when the bill honoring Cliff was passed.
Last week’s passage of the highway designation culminated three years of efforts in the Florida House and Senate, in which both State Senator Bill Montford (D) and Beshears (R) of Franklin County’s legislative delegation had a hand. Both legislators indicated this was a truly bipartisan effort from the beginning.
The original bill in 2015 was drafted by Montford at the request of Franklin County Commissioner William Massey, members of the Millender family, and community residents. Beshears, sponsor of this year’s bill in the Florida House, said before final passage, “SP4 Robert Millender was an American hero. In sacrificing himself on behalf of his fellow soldier, Cliff represents the best of our country.”
Monford added that “It took three years to pass this bill through the legislative process, but with the support of the leadership and both houses, we got it done. I cannot conceive of a more appropriate honor for Cliff Millender’s service and sacrifice.”
Millender was a member of Co. D, 3rd Battalion, 39th Regiment of the 9th Infantryman Division and has been awarded the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Vietnam Service Medal.
The portion of US Highway 98 being designated is between Ryan Drive (W. 11th St.) and NE/SE 12th Street within the City of Carrabelle. A dedication ceremony is expected to be held in the next few months.