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97-year-old World War II veteran Dick Miller to lead Memorial Day Parade in Aurora, Illinois

World War II veteran to lead Memorial Day Parade in Aurora, Illinois
World War II veteran to lead Memorial Day Parade in Aurora, Illinois 00:48

AURORA, Ill. (CBS) -- Community members gathered in west suburban Aurora Tuesday night to honor a special veteran of World War II.

Dick Miller, 97, will be the grand marshal at this year's Memorial Day Parade.

According to the City of Aurora, Miller was born June 26, 1926, and attended St. Paul School and East Aurora High School.

The city said he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1944 and was stationed at Pearl Harbor before being deployed to the U.S.S. Drexler destroyer ship.

The ship was headed for the Battle of Okinawa when it was destroyed on May 28, 1945, in a Japanese kamikaze plane attack, the city said.

A total of 160 people on the ship were killed, and 52 were wounded, including Miller, who was a spotter for the kamikaze planes. 

He held onto an empty canister in the water and spent a couple of hours there, where black oil splashed into his eyes, nose, and mouth, the City of Aurora said. He could have died if he had swallowed the oil.

The end of the war in the Pacific came when Miller was in the hospital. The city said he was discharged from the hospital in 1946. He served in the Navy Reserve for another five years, married his high school sweetheart, and worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 30 years.

Miller and his late wife, Dorothy, raised two children and, according to the city, have two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

City of Aurora

On Tuesday evening, the City of Aurora honored Miller with a proclamation from Mayor Richard Irvin and a sash ahead of the parade. He led Aurora City Council Chambers in a rousing rendition of "God Bless America."

"I enjoy the flag. I love my American flag," Miller said. "God bless America."

The City of Aurora also declared Miller's birthday, June 26, as Dick Miller Day. 

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