A 91-year-old WWII Veteran finally gets the recognition he deserves.
Sgt. Merlin Hoppe has received multiple medals for his sacrifices during the war. He has a Silver Medal, a Bronze Medal and a Purple Heart, but Sunday he got a different kind of acknowledgment.
Neighbors in Georgetown dedicated a flag to the hero, and raised it in his honor.
73 years ago, Hoppe joined the U.S. Army. The native Texan was part of Gen. George Pattan's Third Army, fighting valiantly during a surprise attack by Adolf Hitler’s troops on the Rhine River.
“As they went down, his boat was hit twice by machine guns and 50 caliber guns that were mounted on tanks. Around 5 a.m. Sgt. Hoppe was hit in the shoulder and the friend that was sitting beside him was killed,” said Lynn Raya who helped put together the ceremony for Hoppe.
Hoppe was struck twice more in his other shoulder and his leg. His fellow soldiers had no choice but to hide him in an abandoned farm house until medics could reach him.
“They had to leave him there unattended for almost three days,” Raya said.
72 years later, more than 5,000 miles away, Hoppe's community hoped to show their appreciation by giving him a special ceremony in Georgetown.
“The flag is something that people are dying for, so why not raise this flag and dedicate it to someone who was willing to give his all? It's a very small thing to do for what he did,” said Raya.
“We've always known his story and the amazing things he did for our country, and it's a really proud moment for our family to have other people recognize and see the sacrifices for our country that he did, and do this amazing thing for him,” Hoppe’s granddaughter, Amy Gallagher said.
Representatives from the Army, Navy and Marines raised an American Flag high above the neighborhood in honor of the WWII veteran.
“He can't show it, but I know he's completely overwhelmed,” said Gallagher.
Hoppe, who has since suffered a stroke, watched on from his family's car.
“I want to give him a memory that will last on those days when he can't get out,” Raya said.
“He is living in a nursing home, so he doesn't get out much, but something like this, he would love to come out here and so would we, absolutely, visit and bring the rest of our family,” said Gallagher.
“That's more than I ever expected,” Raya said.
It was just a small gesture from Lynn and Eduardo Raya, but it meant a whole lot to Hoppe, his family and those who served.
“I'm very grateful for what he's done,” said Raya.