9/11 Remembrance: ENMU graduate was stationed at Pentagon
Last updated 9/11/2021 at 4:12pm
Ron Milam was always goal-oriented and self-driven, in college and in the Army. That's how Darwin Pauley remembers him anyway.
"Once he set his mind to something, he went after it so promotions were probably easy for him; not for many - but for him. He knew his job. He knew what he was there for. He shined that way and that's the way people saw him," said Pauley who played basketball with Milam at Eastern New Mexico University in the late 1980s.
The nation is remembering Milam this weekend, along with nearly 3,000 others who died in terrorist attacks 20 years ago.
Milam, a 1991 ENMU graduate, was killed when American Airlines Flight 77, bound for California, was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon where Major Milam was serving in the office of the assistant secretary of the Army.
Pauley said he first met Milam in the fall of 1988 when they were Greyhounds. They also went through ROTC together. After college they both joined the Army and remained friends.
"(Ron) is the reason I joined the military," Pauley said.
When he heard Milam had been killed on 9/11, Pauley said: "It took a little while getting over losing him - he was such a good friend basketball-wise and military-wise - such a great guy.
"Ron had a quirky kind of personality," he said. "He was serious, yet he was fun to be around. A lot of that had to do with his goals. He had goals he'd already set for himself."
Pauley, now retired from the Army, owns a commercial janitorial service in East Texas. He said he will always remember Milam as "my point guard in college," and as a soldier who died defending his country.
Milam was born Aug. 11, 1968, in Muskogee, Okla., where he grew up playing every sport offered in the public school system. He began to focus on basketball as a sophomore and earned a scholarship to play for Coach Earl Diddle at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
Two years after that, Milam followed Diddle to ENMU.
"He was a very competitive and a very tough player," said Steve Milam, Ron's brother, in a 2011 interview. "He was a leader on the floor. It didn't matter the opponent, the seniority of other players. When he stepped on the floor, he definitely wanted to be in charge."
Family members said he was offered a job on Diddle's coaching staff after graduation, but he joined the Army instead because he wanted to see the world. He'd made second lieutenant in college ROTC training.
"Ron, like all of the other people who lost their lives, was a very special person," Steve Milam said on the 10th anniversary of his brother's death. "I don't know how to put it, but it is good to know we keep their memories alive. It helps a great deal."
An ENMU scholarship and Muskogee golf tournament are named in Ron Milam's honor, and buildings are dedicated to him across Oklahoma, including the Muskogee High gymnasium.
Editor Kevin Wilson contributed to this report.