Oak Harbor NJROTC alums come together to honor mentor

Capt. Robert Miles had a lasting impact on his NJROTC students at Oak Harbor High School.

A group of Oak Harbor High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps alumni has come together to create a scholarship in honor of their mentor, retired Navy Capt. Robert Miles.

Miles, a decorated Navy combat veteran, had an active duty career that spanned more than two decades. He also served in the Vietnam War.

After retiring from active duty, he led the high school’s NJROTC program from 1977-96. He had a lasting impact on his students who now want to honor him.

One of his students, Jason Lamont, is one of the Wildcat alums leading the effort. He graduated high school in 1991 and later served in the Air Force. He said he remembered Miles for his patience.

“Almost all of his former students agree that he was a very inspirational teacher,” Lamont said.

“If the experience didn’t send us on a career track in the military, it certainly gave us life lessons and leadership and service to build our lives on.”

The scholarship will be given to graduating seniors from the Oak Harbor NJROTC program who do not already have a full-ride college scholarship or were admitted to a military academy.

The alumni are hopeful that the scholarship will be given out this year, but are still finalizing some details.

The Oak Harbor Education Foundation has been helping them with the process, Lamont said.

“Ideally this is an enduring thing that’s going to enable other graduates to go on to pursue their careers and their dreams with the inspiration that Capt. Miles had,” he said.

Other students also attested to Miles’s impact.

Stephen Dean is a 27-year veteran of the Navy and graduated from Oak Harbor High School in 1991.

Dean said Miles taught him many lessons that he in turn taught to sailors when he became a commanding officer.

“Example is a powerful thing. Capt. Miles is a rare breed of patriot and his record of service is beyond impressive,” Dean said in an email.

“Through his example, he inspired many of us to pursue service in the armed forces to give back to the country in a meaningful way, just like he did.”

Wendy (née Plunkett) Bryant graduated as part of the class of 1988.

Bryant said Miles’s discussions about integrity, listening, critical thinking and leadership stuck with her throughout her life.

“We were teenagers, and his words might have sailed in one ear and out the other, if he hadn’t given us the very best lesson — his living example,” Bryant said in an email.

It’s been three decades since she was his student, but she still uses what he taught her.

“His mentorship and belief in me has helped me navigate challenges with confidence, and inspire those I work with throughout my life.”

Sara and Paul Massey were both students of Miles in the ‘80s.

Paul Massey went on to join the Navy for two decades, serving in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. Sara Massey went to work in airport environmental protection and security.

They both echoed the other alums’ sentiments about Miles’s lessons on leadership and confidence.

Sara Massey also recalled Miles’s guidance when she had a “loud disagreement” with Paul during an inspection one day.

“I was a bit of a hot head back then and had a chip on my shoulder, and I did not get along with Paul at the time,” she said in an email.

Miles took her aside and explained that although she may not like someone, she still needed to respect that person’s rank. Eventually, the two learned to get along.

“That has stuck with me to this day and is something I have taught our three children,” she said.

Miles’s wife, Nancy, was excited when she learned about the group’s scholarship idea. She’s trying to keep the honor a surprise.

“My husband is a private person. He has never talked about anything he does for someone else,” Nancy Miles said.

She said they’ve received letters from previous students over the years, and some have visited him as a testament to his impact.

“It’s nice that they remembered him and wanted to do this. I’m just excited; I thought it was so nice of people,” Nancy Miles said.

Lamont said there are about 100 students who have come together to create the scholarship. They just want to say thank you to their mentor, he said.

“The intent really, behind all of this, is to say thanks. He’s done so much for so many people and we just want to say thank you.”

Donations can be made to the Oak Harbor Education Foundation Attention: Captain Miles Scholarship Fund.