World War II veteran and hometown hero to lead Aurora Memorial Day Parade

Aurora will celebrate the 156th anniversary of Memorial Day during the 2024 Aurora Memorial Day Parade held in honor of the brave men and women who paid the ultimate price and gave their lives for our country.

With the theme “Remembrance and Respect,” the parade will step off at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 27, 2024.

The parade will begin at the intersection of Benton and River streets. It will head east on Benton, north on Broadway, west on Downer Place, and end at River Street. The Reviewing Stand will be located in front of the G.A.R. Memorial Museum, 23 E. Downer Place.

Leading the parade as the 2024 Grand Marshal will be World War II veteran and Aurora icon Richard “Dick” Miller.

Richard “Dick” Miller

Born in Aurora on June 26, 1926, Miller attended St. Paul School and East Aurora High School. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the United States Navy in 1944. He was stationed in Pearl Harbor before being deployed on the destroyer ship U.S.S. Drexler, which headed for the staging area for the Battle of Okinawa, the bloodiest battle of the war in the Pacific. The invasion began on April 1, 1945, and on May 28, 1945, the U.S.S. Drexler was destroyed after kamikaze planes crashed into it.

“I was a spotter for Japanese kamikaze planes,” Miller said. “We were hit twice, and the second one blew our ship to pieces and propelled us into the ocean.”

Nearly 160 people on board were killed, and another 52 were wounded, including Miller. Keeping himself afloat by holding onto an empty canister, he spent a couple of hours in the water with black oil splashing into his eyes, nose, and mouth. Swallowing it could have been fatal.

A pilot searching for survivors eventually rescued him, and he was transported to a hospital in Pearl Harbor. The war in the Pacific ended while he was recovering in the hospital. Miller was discharged in April 1946 and returned home to Illinois and joined the Navy Reserve for an additional five years.

Like so many heroes of the Greatest Generation, he settled into quiet civilian life after the war. He married his high school sweetheart, and began a three-decades-long career at the U.S. Post Office. He and his late wife, Dorothy, raised two children and have two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

At nearly 98, Miller is still active in veterans' causes in the community and frequently speaks at local schools and civic groups about his experiences.

Guests can greet Miller before the parade during the Grand Marshal’s Reception at 9 a.m. at the G.A.R. Military Museum, 23 E. Downer Place.

Marching bands from East Aurora, West Aurora and Metea Valley will be joining in the Aurora Memorial Day Parade. Courtesy of City of Aurora

Parade units

The 2024 Memorial Day Parade will feature local veteran groups and military organizations, including the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council, Roosevelt Aurora American Legion Post 84, Waidley Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 468, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the G.A.R. Memorial Commission.

Marching bands will fill the parade with music from our talented youth at East Aurora High School, West Aurora High School, Metea Valley High School Marching Band, Granger Middle School, Hill Middle School Marching Band, and Still Middle School, along with the Aurora Roosevelt American Legion Band.

Other crowd favorites such as the electrifying South Shore Drill Team, the Lamplighters Barbershop Chorus, Costumers with a Cause, the Phillips Park Zoo, the Aurora Public Library’s Bookmobile, the East Aurora NJROTC, the West Aurora High School Cheer Team, and the Simply Destinee Dance Team will help to energize Aurora for the 156th anniversary of Memorial Day.

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