Tim Miller had it all: an adventurous, high-profile career doing what he had always dreamed of doing. But there was a price.
by Chuck Holton
Tim Miller stood in the foyer of the White House and looked around. He had reached the pinnacle of his career. As a Secret Service agent since 1991, Tim had recently been temporarily assigned to presidential detail — his childhood dream.
It was October 1994. He had just left the stairs leading to the President’s private quarters when he heard a rapid popping sound outside. Then glass began shattering. Immediately, Tim’s earphone crackled to life with reports from the uniformed officers outside that someone was attacking the White House. Tim sprinted around the sidewalk outside the fence. The shooting seemed to have stopped, but there was pandemonium on the street in front of the White House. Secret Service officers had a man handcuffed on the ground.
Francisco Martin Duran had remarked to friends that he was going to kill the President. No one took him seriously until he drove to Washington and, surrounded by tourists, opened fire on the President’s residence. As he stopped to change magazines, two civilians wrestled him to the ground and held him until uniformed agents arrived to arrest him. Tim took the man into custody and performed the initial interview.
Driving home that evening, Tim replayed the events in his mind. He felt good, and this was right where he wanted to be — taking part in life-and-death matters of national importance, the culmination of his years as a Marine and as a policeman.
Yet he could never dispel the nagging thought that maybe his job wasn’t worth it. His wife would be upset that he was late and that he had missed another family dinner.
Tim loved his wife and children dearly, but it seemed that they always got the short end of the deal. Being a Secret Service agent was a lifestyle, so when his career conflicted with his personal life, the job had to take precedence. His family was paying a high price for his success. He worked three out of every four weekends, missed his wedding anniversary while riding camels around the Egyptian pyramids protecting Tipper Gore and missed his daughter’s birthday while protecting the President in Hawaii. But his family knew that he loved them, didn’t they?
Although the Secret Service has the highest divorce rate of any law enforcement agency, Tim was convinced it would never happen to him and his wife, LaDonna. But a knot formed in his stomach as he remembered her saying a week or two earlier, “Tim, I feel like a single parent.”
This comment confused and frustrated him. He should have been enjoying life; he was right where he had always dreamed of being. Instead, the knowledge that he was there at the expense of his wife and kids left a bitter taste in his mouth. And they weren’t the ones to blame.
Time for change
In the months following the shooting, Tim traveled more than ever. His job continued to call him to important tasks and exciting destinations. He stayed in the palace of Saudi Prince Abdullah and protected Israeli Prime Minister Rabin just three weeks before Rabin’s assassination.
Then one day, on his way to the White House, Tim heard Dr. Dobson on the radio saying, “Men, if your career is causing you to miss out on your family, you need to pray and ask God to provide you a job where you can be a true husband to your wife and a good father to your children.”
Those words represented the final blow to his dilemma. Tim found himself in tears, and he immediately made the decision to find a new job. It wasn’t an easy choice. He didn’t know what God planned, but his family would no longer sit in second place.
Tim left the Secret Service and became a U.S. Customs agent. His position as a Senior Special Agent in the U.S. Customs Office of Anti-Terrorism gave him the immense responsibility of implementing a nationwide plan to safeguard our country’s borders from terrorist infiltration and attack.
He thought that he was making a sacrifice for his family at the time, but it became clear that the choice to put his family ahead of his career was like giving up a fistful of mud for a chest of diamonds. Tim experienced greater blessing than he had ever imagined.
Once Tim was prepared to give up his career, God not only blessed his family but also gave him a job he loved. He now makes a better living and enjoys weekends with his family. Currently, as a Senior Department of Homeland Security Liaison to the FBI, Tim has enormous responsibility helping to safeguard our country.
He wouldn’t give anything for the relationships he has built with his family over the last seven years. “My son, Aaron, got married last year,” Tim says. “And one of the best moments of my life was the day that he asked if I’d be his best man.”
This article appeared in the December 2003 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2003 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
A father of five, Chuck Holton is a former Army Ranger and lives in Maryland with his family.