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Mills flies high, fast in U.S. Air Force

POLSON – Memorial Day was celebrated across America on May 31. Originally called Decoration Day, it started around the end of the Civil War and was a day for commemorating the men and women who died while serving in our nation’s service. But Memorial Day may have lost its meaning to some residents. 

“To me, the majority of the people think it’s a day off, a paid holiday for nothing but picnics or parties,” Maurice “Maury” Mills said. 

Mills, 81, served in Korea, the Cold War and Vietnam. His is an unusual story of divided service. 

Mills served in the United States Navy from November of 1947 to May 31, 1957. In June of 1957 he enlisted in the United States Air Force where he remained in active service until October 1, 1969, and in the reserves until 1977, a 30-year career. Mills retired as an E-7 master sergeant.  

“I’ve been on every continent, including the north and south poles, and every major body of water,” Mills said proudly.

A Montana boy, Mills was born in Conrad and raised in Shelby. He grew up on a ranch, but his folks divorced and sold the ranch. 

“Dad went one way, and Mom went the other way,” Mills explained.

Mills joined the Navy then and being a ranch kid helped him out because he was used to hard work, Mills’ wife Monica said. 

“One thing (growing up on a ranch) taught me was if something had to be done, get it done. If there’s time left over, then you can play,” Mills said. 

In the Air Force, Mills was a flight engineer and “went to school every time I turned around.” The schools could be three or four hours or a week, all focused on upgrading his career field.  

Mills worked on aircraft — the B-52, B-58, F-86, C-130, KC-135 but his favorite of ‘em all was the SR-71. The SR-71 was known as the Blackbird. According to the Internet, the sleek Blackbird was a long-range strategic reconnaissance aircraft, capable of flying at speeds over Mach 3.2 and at 85,000 feet.

“I’ve flown higher and faster than anybody in the state,” Mills said with a daredevil grin 

Although Mills’ military records are classified to this day, he could say he’d served on 27 bases in Vietnam and Cambodia. 

Mills said he loved his military service. 

“I’d go back and do it again,” Mills added.

Mills has lived in Polson since 1970, and he and his wife were married in 1977. Monica is from St. Ignatius so the couple met here in the valley. Since about 1974 or 1975, Mills and Monica have been very involved with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Mills served as Montana State VFW Commander and Monica was Montana State President of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary.

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