Durham, N.C. — A World War II veteran received an honor Friday that he never knew he was supposed to have.
Army Cpl. Merle “Jack” Hammersley participated in the Normandy invasion in 1944 and later in the Battle of the Bulge, both of which helped turn the tide in Europe in favor of the Allied forces. The head driver for his company’s group of five ammunition jeeps, he once ran into enemy fire to pull a comrade to safety.
“Part of the ‘Greatest Generation,’ Cpl. Hammersley represents the very best of our country, and this medal recognizes and honors his bravery, his service and sacrifice," U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said after she presented a Bronze Star to the 90-year-old veteran.
"I can't believe it. It's just overflowing me, but it's one of the best things I've ever heard," Hammersley said.
He was supposed to receive the medal in August 1962, but for some reason never did. He said he didn't even know he had earned it.
"I never knew about it till Dale was in there one day and talking about things (and asked) 'Did you ever get your pin?'" he said.
Longtime family friend Dale Gore said that, after hearing Hammersley recount his years of service, he started to wonder why he never received the Bronze Star.
"I said, 'Let me do some research,'" Gore said.
He checked into Hammersley's military records and contacted Hagan's office about getting his friend his long-deserved medal.
"It was evident and obvious that Jack Hammersley – his actions during World War II – that he did earn a Bronze Star," Hagan said.
"I've heard over the years heroes don't know they're heroes," Gore said.
Hammersley now knows what his family and friends have known for years.