West Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Every week News19 recognizes outstanding educators with the Golden Apple Award.

This week's winner is Sgt. Major James Miller, an instructor at Wil Lou Gray Opportunity school.

Miller is a decorated veteran who earned a Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam.

"I learned life over there, I learned you have to believe in God and listen to yourself," Miller says. "If that wasn't true I wouldn't be here today. Honestly I wouldn't."

As an Army Junior ROTC instructor, Sgt. Major Miller's responsibility is to follow the curriculum established by the U.S. Army. But he takes it a step further by giving his students the basic training in life skills that they will be able to use outside of Will Lou Gray.

"To me they mean the future," Millers says. "They mean life."

The interesting thing about Sgt. Major Miller is that his entire life is about having heart: a heart for young people, a love for his country, and a passion for Will Lou Gray that even open heart surgery couldn't contain.

"All they want is for somebody to listen to them, Millers says. "Do you have to agree with them? No. But you have to respect him or her."

Miller has six biological children, but for the last two decades he's been like a father to his students, instrumental in keeping Will Lou Gray's drill team and weightlifting programs recognized and successful.

"When we take these kids out to keep with these other schools we know the fact is these schools are ready, so we've got to get ready. How do you get ready: Sevendays a week, nighttime whatever has got to be done."

His life has served as an example to his students who follow his safe, simple, solid marching orders.

"Keeping bad company ends up with bad results and negative results," Miller says. "You get positive company you get positive results."

For Miller, it's about touching the lives of young people today and creating a future built on discipline and love.

"You don't give up on none of them--never," he says.

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