Local veteran honored with a birthday parade

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A Montgomery County community came together Saturday to tribute Former Lt. Col. William Bonelli.

Bonelli's 100th birthday is in March, but after recently receiving a grim cancer diagnosis Mission Barbeque, where Bonelli is a regular, decided to celebrate six months early at their King of Prussia location.

A parade with fire engines, police cruisers and decorated cars drove by as Bonelli saluted them.

After the surprise parade, Action News asked Bonelli what it meant to him.

"I don't know what more I can say, except to thank you for your concern for our veterans," he said.

Local veterans gave him gifts and Mission Barbecue hosted a lunch with a birthday cake.

Bonelli has an impressive military career that began during WWII when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He was initially an aircraft mechanic at Hickman Air Field in Pearl Harbor where he worked on the B-17 Flying Fortress.

A survivor of Pearl Harbor, Col. Bonelli was then stationed in Fiji Island and eventually earned his wings and achieved his dream of becoming a B-17 pilot.

Bonelli led a squadron on 30 sorties (missions) over Italy and Nazi Germany, right up to the Battle of Berlin. He fought on the European and Pacific fronts.

During the Cold War, Bonelli flew tactical bombers. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his bravery as a pilot.
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