When New Albany resident Brodie Miller and his crew at Westerville-based Two Men and a Truck arrived at the Delaware home of William Hamilton’s mother, the expectation was for another routine junk call. Hamilton’s mother was moving to a senior living facility, and the moving crew was hired to assist with the move and the disposing of her unwanted items.
While Miller was rummaging through an upstairs closet, he noticed an item that he immediately recognized was no piece of junk. Rather, Miller knew the item would be of great significance to Hamilton and the history of his family. In a box postmarked on Sept. 23, 1949, and addressed to Hamilton’s grandfather sat an American flag.
“As soon as I saw the flag, I knew exactly what it was because my father had passed away from Lou Gehrig’s Disease when I was 13 years old, and he was a Vietnam veteran,” Miller said. “So, I was handed that flag, folded in a triangle. When I saw (Hamilton’s flag), I knew I couldn’t just put it in a box and throw it away. I had to bring it to the customer’s attention.”
As Miller would soon find out, the flag was used in the burial of Hamilton’s great uncle, Gerald Hamilton, when he was laid at his permanent resting place in an American military cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands. Gerald Hamilton, who was born in Claibourne, Ohio, enlisted in the Army in 1941, prior to the attack at Pearl Harbor, and he was eventually thrust into World War II following the D-Day invasions in 1944.
During the war, Gerald Hamilton served as a C-47 pilot in the Ninth Air Force, flying missions that included air support operations in the Battle of the Bulge, Operation Market Garden, and Operation Varsity, among others. Operation Varsity, which began the Allied push across the Rhine and into Germany, would be his last, unfortunately, as he was killed in action during the one-day operation on March 24, 1945.
“I was shocked and amazed because I didn’t know it was there,” William Hamilton said of seeing the flag brought to him by Miller. “Everybody in my family had been through the house, went through what we thought was anything of any value … This was just a brown cardboard box that one of us missed.”
Hamilton said only his father ever knew of the flag’s existence, which is why it was almost looked over entirely.
“I just can’t put into words how valuable it is to me because I grew up with all the stories of Gerald,” Hamilton said. “It would have been very easy for the average person to just have gathered it up with the rest of the stuff and disposed of it and not recognized it for what it was. We are just so fortunate that Brodie looked at what it was, recognized it, and said, ‘Oh, they’re going to want to keep this.’”
Miller said he could see the shock on the face of Hamilton and his family, who clearly had no idea the flag existed within the house. For Miller, he said the moment was very rewarding to return an item of such significance that would have otherwise been thrown away, to the family.
“It kind of goes along the lines of things happening for a reason,” Miller said of being the one to find the flag. “It’s just one of those things where I feel like I was put into that position for a reason. I don’t know if a lot of guys would have known exactly what it was, and what it would have meant to the family. It was just a really good feeling.”
Hamilton said the moment served as a nice reminder that there are plenty of good people in the world, and this one, in particular, preserved for his family an item that is “completely irreplaceable.”
The flag is now locked in his safe, Hamilton said, along with Gerald Hamilton’s Purple Heart medal, aviator badge and uniform bars.
“It’s remarkable,” Hamilton said of Miller’s awareness and kindness. “I can’t be thankful enough. He was the right person at the right time to see that, because there are just so many people who simply wouldn’t have recognized it for what it was.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.