One of many emotions aging Pearl Harbor survivors share as they enter their 80s is gratitude for witnessing one of history's most important events and being alive to talk about it.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, was the catalyst that drew the United States into World War II.

The attack killed 2,390 people. Many of the dead remain aboard the USS Arizona, sunk in the Hawaiian bay. The ship remains there, topped by a memorial now visited by thousands of people each year.

Saturday is the 61st anniversary of the attack, and will be marked by several ceremonies.

Pearl Harbor survivor Tom Diermier, 78, who is also commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2600, will lead the annual Christmas Parade in Valley Springs at 10 a.m. Saturday.

He was a radarman second-class aboard the USS Portland when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He and his wife, Betty, live near Mountain Ranch.

Diermier said he and two or three other Pearl Harbor survivors will carry the flag during the parade, and there will be a volley of rounds fired in honor of those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. He will wear his Veterans of Foreign Wars uniform, and veterans from all eras will be represented at the parade.

His ship had left Hawaii on Dec. 5, heading for the island of Midway, but raced back searching for Japanese aircraft carriers as soon as word of the early morning attack arrived.

"It's a good thing we didn't find them," he said. "They were ready for war, and we weren't."

He went on to take part in seven major battles and many smaller ones before the war was over.

The VFW post will also lead a ceremony complete with a 21-gun salute honoring World War II veterans at the Mark Twain Convalescent Hospital at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.

At least four Tuolumne County members of the Mother Lode Chapter of Pearl Harbor Survivors will participate in a flag ceremony Saturday at Jackson City Hall, at the corner of Highway 108 and Broadway in Jackson.