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A privilege to serve

Joyce Miller, server with the 911th Airlift Wing Services Personnel, cuts a congratulatory cake at her retirement party December 14, 2016, at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserves Station, Pa. Miller’s retirement comes after 45 years of dedicated service on base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beth Kobily)

Joyce Miller, server with the 911th Airlift Wing Services Personnel, cuts a congratulatory cake at her retirement party December 14, 2016, at the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserves Station, Pa. Miller’s retirement comes after 45 years of dedicated service on base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Beth Kobily)

PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AIR RESERVE STATION, Pa. --

Anyone who’s dined at the 911th Airlift Wing in the past 45 years will remember Joyce Miller‘s smiling face as a part of the scene. This woman has done it all: waitressing, catering, banking and more.

After years of service to the 911th AW, Miller, server with the 911th Airlift Wing Services Personnel, effectively retires December 30, 2016.

Miller‘s journey at the 911th began in 1971. At 28 years old, married to her high school sweetheart with two young kids, she answered an advertisement in the newspaper and started working at the club on base as a waitress.

“In the beginning, for the first 10, 15, maybe even up to 20 years, everyone on the base would come down to the club after work during unit training assemblies,” said Miller. “It would be packed! We would have so many people in there and we would serve dinners. We would put, ‘By reservation only,’ because we would fill that place up with reservations. And more would come so we’d write their names down and send them to the bar to wait for a table.”

Miller worked at the club for many years. She remembered that during some points club employees were required to learn all the jobs on base that pertain to non-appropriated funds, such as working at the base lodging facility and the gym, in case those facilities were short staffed.

At one point during Miller’s career, the government started contracting out all of the food services.

“They gave up the food part of things, so of course we didn’t have jobs then,” said Miller. “But Jim Booker, who managed the club at the time, put a bid in as a contractor, and he got it. So then I worked at the club still, on base, but I worked for Jim Booker and not the government. So even though I was still here I actually wasn’t here. It was interesting. I worked for Jim for a good while like that and I did all of the banking and paying the bills. I did it all because I was the main person and everybody else was on call.”

Booker got the contract twice. The third time the contract went up for bid another contractor got it, so Miller left to work at Crown Plaza.

“I worked there for a little while when one day I got a phone call. They said, ‘The government took the food back, would you come back?’ and I said, ‘My foot’s in the door!’ I was so happy.”

Some of Miller’s favorite moments from her career are when U.S. presidents would visit the base.

“My favorite memory would have to be when President Jimmy Carter was coming and I wrote and invited him to the club,” said Miller. “I sat and strung peanuts because he was famous for his peanuts. So I strung popcorn, peanuts, popcorn, peanuts, and put them all across the front hoping he would be able to make it into the club.”

Although the president wasn’t able to stop at the club that day, her festive decorations were still enjoyed by those who visited.

In retirement, Miller is looking forward to relaxing and spending time with her husband, three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

“I’ve had a wonderful marriage, a wonderful husband, wonderful kids, a wonderful job; I had it all,” said Miller. “And I’m still going to have it all.”

Although looking forward to retirement, Miller says she’ll miss the friends she’s made on base. To be able to come and visit, Miller will stay as an on-call employee, making occasional appearances to help out her coworkers when they need it, just like she has over her 45-year career.

“I really honor all of our troops,” said Miller. “I’ve been privileged to serve them. I’ve always felt privileged that I was able to do that, and I wish them all the best.”