Calgary WW II veteran receives France's top military service medal

Calgary WW II veteran receives France's top military service medal

A 96-year-old Calgary man who served with the "Murphy crew" flying bombers in the Second World War received the Legion of Honour on Friday. 

It's France's top medal for military service — but don't tell Hank Jackson he's a hero.

"I'm not a hero, you know, because many other people did the same thing," he told the Calgary Eyeopener. "The heroes, I think, are the guys who were down in the mud, down in the trenches. That's the heroes."

Henry (Hank) Jackson served as a rear gunner during the war, flying 31 combat operations in 1943 and 1944 with RCAF 428 Ghost Squadron. The bombers' job was a perilous one during the war — 75 per cent were shot down, said Karl Kjarsgaard, the director of the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alta.

"He came from the dark days of World War II, and then he flew until just after D-Day," said Kjarsgaard. 

His crew all received the Distinguished Flying Cross for excellence in combat, too. 

More than a decade ago, Jackson's war medals went missing,. He'd all but given up hope of ever getting them back, but Kjarsgaard and the museum were able to track them down.

Last year, Jackson was presented with his lost medals as well as a Distinguished Flying Medal for his service. 

'It's a shame the whole gang wasn't here'

The Legion of Honour was supposed to be presented at that time, but Kjaarsgaard said it was delayed due to government red tape.

"Hank is one of the last of a generation," said Kjarsgaard. "He's from an era that hardly anyone survived, let alone lived to present day."

Even though it's being awarded more than 60 years later, it's still important to recognize the accomplishments of Jackson and his fellow gunners.

"This is our way of saying thank you to the guys that are still here," Kjarsgaard said. 

Jackson, for his part, remains humble. 

"It still feels good to know somebody thought we did the right thing. It's a shame the whole gang wasn't here, but I'm the only one left, I guess," he said.

"I just hope some of the families will hear about it and know that I'm getting this medal, not for myself, but the whole gang: the Murphy crew."

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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener