Aurora salutes World War II veteran who will lead Memorial Day Parade

In May 1945, he was wounded at war in the Pacific Ocean, praying to be rescued. Seventy-nine years later, in May 2024, he led a crowd at Aurora City Hall in singing “God Bless America” — a crowd that was there to celebrate him.

“I’m honored to be here tonight,” said World War II veteran Richard “Dick” Miller as he held back tears. “I can’t believe it. I never thought I would be in a situation like this. It’s just wonderful.”

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin hosted a recognition ceremony for the hometown hero in honor of him being named the 2024 Grand Marshal of the Aurora Memorial Day Parade.

Receiving multiple standing ovations, Miller was feted at an Aurora City Council, where he was presented his Grand Marshal’s sash, a large banner, and a proclamation naming his birthday in his honor.

On June 26 this year, Miller will turn 98 … on the first Dick Miller Day.

It was a day he would never have thought would come when, at the young age of 18, he was serving in the United States Navy when his ship, the USS Drexler, was destroyed on May 28, 1945, after kamikaze planes crashed into it.

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.

For his meritorious service to our country and the Aurora community, he will lead the Aurora Memorial Day Parade at 10 a.m. on Monday, May 27 in downtown Aurora.

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