Sparta man reunites military medals with family thanks to social media
by Bobby Lee McCulley | December 7, 2017 6:40 am
A Sparta man who recently discovered a national treasure, which included a Purple Heart, was able to reunite several distinguished military medals with the family to whom they belonged.
While traveling to work in Gallatin, Brandon Phillips, of Sparta, stopped at Pedigo’s New and Used, in Smithville.
“I stop there often on my commute,” said Phillips. “You never know what you’re going to find at that place.”
On this particular November day, Phillips came across a collection of items that he most likely never would have imagined finding, especially at a small business, in Smithville – a board with a collection of military medals attached to it.
“The first thing I saw was the Purple Heart,” said Phillips. “I wondered how on earth something like that ended up at a junk store. Upon further inspection, I noticed it wasn’t just a Purple Heart.”
Attached to the board with the Purple Heart was also a Bronze Star and a story with the name of the recipient of the medals. The name attached with the medals and the story was Douglas I. Hancock.
“I was in awe of the medals, but once I saw his name and a picture, it became more than just a cool find at a thrift store,” said Phillips. “It became a mission to find his story – his family.”
With the determination to find out more about Hancock and to try and locate his family, Phillips took to social media.
“I asked for help on my Instagram account @LostCreekRambler and posted on my Facebook page,” said Phillips. “At first I assumed this would be nearly impossible.”
On Nov. 11, at 5:03 p.m., Phillips made the following post on social media asking for help in tracking down Hancock and his family.
“Recently, I came across this at an old junk store. It blew my mind that something as priceless as this could be found at such a place. Meet Douglas I. Hancock. This hero received a Purple Heart and numerous other medals for his service. I had planned on finding his family and returning this treasure to them, but I have yet to find any info on this man. I NEED YOUR HELP!!! I would appreciate it if you would share this and maybe someone, somewhere along the lines will recognize him,” stated Phillips’ Facebook post.
According to the information gathered from the story on the board, Douglas I. Hancock was an Army Infantry captain and served in North Korea, in 1952. He was a part of the 1st U.S. Army Europe, Eight United Army Europe & Korea, China Burma India, 7th US Army Command Patton, 77 Special Force Italy & Germany, 45 Infantry Division, 4th Armored Division, and the 17th Airborne.
Hancock received the following medals, the Purple Heart – Combat Wounded, Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, and the Bronze Star, according to the information gathered from the board Phillips found.
Social media responded in a remarkable way toward Phillips’ request and his mission to find the family of Hancock. Within hours, Phillips’ Facebook post was shared over 220 times and received numerous comments offering support and leads.
“Within a few hours, hundreds of people shared my post,” stated Phillips. “By the end of the night, I was given a name.”
From the help of those on social media, Phillips was able to make contact over Facebook with the daughter of Hancock, Dolores Hancock-Sparks.
“I did a quick search on Facebook and not only was Dolores Hancock name on Facebook but she had a profile picture of Douglas Hancock – honoring him for Veterans Day,” stated Phillips. “When I saw that picture, my heart melted. I knew at that moment that I had found his family.”
After making contact with Hancock’s daughter, Phillips arranged to meet with Sparks, in LaVergne. According to Phillips, Sparks helped make the board containing the medals in honor of her dad when she was a young child.
However, over the years after the death of her parents, the board was misplaced and eventually sold during a storage unit sale, which is how they eventually found their way to the thrift store, in Smithville.
When asked what Phillips took away from this journey, he said, “It was a very humbling experience to see so many strangers on social media reach out and help me locate this family and bring his medals home. With a world full of negative news, it was a blessing to help spread some good news in bringing these medals home. I could not have done this without all of the share and help from Instagram and Facebook.”