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Aurora honors World War II vet

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While Aurora’s City Council chambers have seen plenty of speech-making through the years, singing songs is another matter.

But that was the highlight of this week’s honoring of 97-year-old World War II veteran Dick Miller, who will be this year’s Memorial Day Parade grand marshal in the city.

Miller took the microphone to stand before an appreciative audience on Tuesday and sing “God Bless America,” and it didn’t take long for the room to join in.

“I’m honored to be here tonight,” he said. “I can’t believe I would be in a situation like this.”

Miller likely would never have believed it about 59 years ago, on May 28, 1945, when he was bobbing up and down in the water off the island of Okinawa, his ship having been sunk by a kamikaze attack during the bloodiest battle of the war in the Pacific.

While nearly 160 people on board the ship were killed in the attack, Miller was flung into the water, and was one of 52 who was wounded, but survived.

The East Aurora High School graduate, who joined the U.S. Navy right after graduation at age 17, was recuperating in the hospital when World War II ended. He found his way back to his hometown, to marry his high school sweetheart, raise two children and spend a long career with the U.S. Postal Service in Aurora.

“I just love it here,” he said. “It’s totally a beautiful city.”

As is often the case with veterans, he downplayed his own part in fighting the war in favor of “all the men who fought for our country.”

“They gave everything they had,” he said. “Some didn’t make it back.”

And Miller has always honored those who didn’t, as he will at Monday’s ceremonies and parade, a day set aside to “honor those who paid the ultimate price, by those who survived,” said Clayton Muhammad, Aurora’s chief communications and equity officer.

The parade will step off at 10 a.m. Monday at Benton and River streets, and at 9 a.m., there will be a reception to honor Miller at the G.A.R. Hall Museum on Downer Place downtown.

And the honors will continue on June 26, Miller’s birthday, according to a proclamation in his honor read by Mayor Richard Irvin on Tuesday night. The proclamation makes June 26 “Richard Miller Day in the city of Aurora” from this day forward.

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