Photo courtesy of The Freedom Museum
A World War II veteran’s resilience was celebrated in Manassas this week.
The Freedom Museum recognized Ernest Merle Hancock at the annual Christmas Dinner on Monday night.
During the event, former delegate Rich Anderson presented Hancock with a commemorative coin.
Hancock served as a turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 Flying Fortress.
During his 37th mission, his unit was attacked by German fighter aircrafts and he was eventually placed at the Stalag Luft IV Prisoner of War Camp in Poland.
In February 1945, Hancock and his fellow prisoners were forced to march to Germany as Allied forces closed in on the camp.
“Merle is just simply not your average World War II soldier,” said Anderson, who serves on the Freedom Museum’s Board of Directors. “He’s somebody who did something really, really significant.”
The commemorative coin Hancock received on Monday was created by the Virginia WWI and WWII Commemoration Commission.
Anderson was a member of the commission, which was established to remember the 100th anniversary of World War I and the 75th anniversary of the second world war.
More than 100 veterans were recognized and received the coin two years ago at a ceremony in Richmond.
“The stands were all full of their family members and friends, and if they walked down the center of a[n] aisle to get their coin, an announcer discussed what they had done in World War II,” Anderson said.
Not all veterans were able to attend, however, and the commission members received a coin supply.
“After my term ended in January of this year — because I am so closely affiliated with a number of veterans groups — Speaker Cox asked me to present those coins on his behalf whenever I encountered a World War II vet,” Anderson explained.
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