He was cooperative, but he was embarrassed about the photo's impact back home.
Then Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, head of the 1st Marine Division, made a special trip to see the Marlboro Marine.
I was in the forward command center, which by then featured a large blowup of the photo. "You might want to see this," an officer said, nudging me to follow.
To talk to Miller, Natonski had to weave between earthen berms, run through bombed-out buildings and make a mad sprint across a wide street to avoid sniper fire before diving into a shattered storefront.
"Miller, get your ass up here," a first sergeant barked on the radio.
Miller had no idea what was going on as he ran through the rubble. He snapped to attention when he saw the general.
Natonski shook Miller's hand. Americans had "connected" with his photo, the general said, and nobody wanted to see him wounded or dead.
"We can have you home tomorrow," he said.
Miller hesitated, then shook his head. He did not want to leave his buddies behind. "It just wasn't right," he told me later.
The tall, lanky general towered over the grunt. "Your father raised one hell of a young man," he said, looking Miller in the eye. They said goodbye, and Natonski scrambled back to the command post.
For his loyalty, Miller was rewarded with horror. The assault on Fallouja raged on, leaving nearly 100 Americans dead and 450 wounded. The bodies of some 1,200 insurgents littered the streets.
As the fighting dragged on for a month, the story fell off the front page. I joined the exodus of journalists heading home or moving to the next story.
More than a year and a half would pass before I saw Miller again.
Back home, I immersed myself in other assignments, trying to put Fallouja behind me. Yet not a day went by that I didn't think about Miller and what we experienced in Iraq.
National Public Radio interviewed me. Much to my embarrassment, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a resolution in my honor. I became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Bloggers riffed on the photo's meaning. Requests for prints kept coming.
In January 2006, I was on assignment along the U.S.-Mexico border when my wife called. "Your boy is on TV. He has PTSD," she said. "They kicked him out of the Marines."
I'd spoken with Miller by phone twice, but the conversations were short and superficial. I knew post-traumatic stress disorder was a complicated diagnosis. So once again, I dug up his number. Again, I offered simple words: Life is sweet. We survived. Everything else is gravy.
As the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion approached, my editors wanted another follow-up story.