DERRY — One of the town's remaining few World War II veterans will have a place of honor in this year's annual Memorial Day observance.
James Bilotta, a Pearl Harbor survivor, will be the grand marshal for Derry's Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 25.
Bilotta, 95, will ride as guest of honor in the parade and will be honored at traditional services in MacGregor Park.
The parade begins at Hood Commons at 11 a.m., marches down Crystal Avenue to Broadway to MacGregor Park, where members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars will lead services at approximately 11:30 a.m.
For Bilotta, memories are still clear of that day in December 1941, when America was attacked by Japan. He was 19 when he joined the Marines and landed at Pearl Harbor the month before the attack.
He remembers many details of that day.
"We were having breakfast outside in the beautiful weather of Hawaii; we looked up into the sky and saw puffs of black smoke everywhere," Bilotta said. "At that time, we didn't know what was happening."
After thinking it may be just a Navy drill, Bilotta said the bugler then blew the call to arms and everyone knew Pearl Harbor was under attack.
Bilotta has written his memoir of a life well lived, he said, something he and wife of 68 years, Edie, are very proud of.
He remained in the Marines for six years before heading back to New England with many medals for his service.
On Memorial Day, Bilotta will be guest of honor at the ceremony, with local veterans, town and other officials offering remarks of the day along with special music and a laying of the wreaths at the monuments in the park honoring veterans of all wars and conflicts.
The VFW post home on Railroad Avenue will hold an open house Monday, starting at noon.
In addition, local veterans will have another another opportunity to join together as Derry Village Rotary and Derry Rotary Clubs present the annual veterans tribute cookout on Thursday, May 28, at 5 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry.
All veterans and a guest are admitted free for dinner, special activities and a gift presented by local Rotarians.
The annual Rotary veterans dinner has been held for several years. It started as a way to honor the town's World War II veterans. Now, all veterans are invited to attend.
The special guest speaker at the dinner will be Natalie Healy of Exeter, who lost a son while he served as a Navy SEAL.
All veterans wanting to attend the dinner can call Eddie Leon at 674-8144.