Even as former Judge Robert L. Miller Sr. plans to retire as the leader of Miller's Vets, the Center for the Homeless program might expand beyond South Bend to help homeless veterans throughout Indiana.
The new commanding officer will be motivated by real desire to transform the lives of the program's members, Miller said.
"I've already written a manual. I can teach anyone to do what's in there," Miller said. "I can't teach them to be compassionate. They need a drive to help these homeless veterans. They have to have that compassion."
The former judge founded Miller's Vets, a Center for the Homeless initiative, in 2009 to restore pride to homeless veterans. Its members dress in military uniform to march at events to honor local veterans.
The program also provides veterans who cannot afford a funeral with a full military and religious service and burial for no charge.
"I can't begin to tell ... how much these veterans appreciate the program," Miller said. "It means a lot to have crowds stand up and applaud and thank them for their service."
Miller, now 90, will select a new commanding officer before the new Robert L. Miller Sr. Veteran's Center at 747 S. Michigan St. is dedicated on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11.
"I want to step down," Miller said. "(The Veteran's Center) will be dedicated on 11/11/11. I thought that would be an ideal time if I could have a new commanding officer then ... I want someone ready to fill that desk when it is opened."
The Notre Dame Alumni Association advertised the position for Miller, who graduated from the university in 1942 and then from Notre Dame Law School in 1947.
"We decided to approach Notre Dame because they have so many clubs," Miller said. "There are an awful lot of alumni out there who attended Notre Dame and served in the military and are active in their alumni club. I think we will have no problem finding good, competent, compassionate leaders to keep this thing rolling."
The founder will continue to be involved as an advisor.
"I've lived way beyond my life expectancy, so I'm keeping my eyes open," Miller said. "This is a young man's game."
Even as Miller searches for his replacement, he hopes to expand Miller's Vets beyond South Bend.
In April, the officers of all Notre Dame Alumni Clubs in Indiana received a video and a written invitation to begin their own chapters of Miller's Vets in their communities.
"All we are going to do is reach out to them," Miller said. "I hope these clubs are going to find these veterans at their shelters and put them in uniform and let them do the colors."
The current Miller's Vets staff at the Center for the Homeless will supervise the expanding program as the Notre Dame Club of St. Joseph Valley helps operate the local chapter, Miller said.
"We need so many people to help with veterans who are down on their luck, who have no money for a funeral," he said. "And we've got a huge number of people who want to help a homeless vet and don't know how to find them."
The original charity will finance all the new chapters until each group can collect its own donations, Miller said. The alumni clubs are not required to contribute any funds to the project.
The Center for the Homeless will continue to be the base for the local chapter of Miller's Vets.
"We're nothing without the center," Miller said. "If we go and find somebody under a bridge, we have no place to house them or feed them or clean them up ... all I can do is dress them up and give them pride in their uniform again."