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Quilts of Valor honors veteran who arrived in France on his birthday, D-Day

Enid News & Eagle - 3/15/2019

March 15-- Mar. 15--ENID, Okla. -- Quilts of Valor, a group that sews commemorative quilts for veterans, presented a quilt Thursday to a 97-year-old veteran of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Ernest Leierer, of Enid, was with family and friends Thursday morning at The Commons, an assisted-living and retirement community, to receive the quilt and share a few stories of his time in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

A native of Enid, Leierer enlisted in 1941 and served with the 16th Depot Repair Squadron of the 29th Air Depot Group, repairing combat gliders and troop transport planes, primarily the C-47 Skytrain.

Leierer's unit was based in England leading up to the D-Day invasion. Leierer said he and his fellow airmen knew the invasion was coming at some point, but the timing was a closely-held secret.

They had a hint, Leirerer said, when all their passes to leave base were cancelled for 10 days leading up to the invasion.

"We knew something was going to happen, because they'd always restrict us to base whenever there was going to be a big jump," Leierer said.

He found out what that big jump was going to be on the morning of his 22nd birthday -- June 6, 1944, D-Day.

On that day Leierer was serving as a clerk for his unit, and was just walking into the office for a typical day of work when his routine was disrupted.

"These two guys came up to me, and they said, 'Pack your duffle bag, we're leaving,'" Leierer said.

It wasn't until Leierer was on a cargo plane headed to France that he learned he was among the troops making the invasion of France.

"I can remember every step of that day, D-Day, because it was my birthday," Leierer said.

He arrived in France in time to see the aftermath of the initial assault but missed having to take part in direct combat.

"The good Lord was with us through all that," Leierer said, "and kept us from having any problems."

He remained in France for 17 months, repairing airplanes used as the Allies pushed through German defenses, through the Battle of the Bulge, on their way to German capitulation on May 8, 1945.

Leierer got out of the service on Dec. 5, 1945, and went on to a 27-year career in ministry before retiring in his hometown. But, he's always kept his medals and ribbons proudly displayed on his living room wall, to remind him and others of his service in the war.

Marsha Weinand happened to see the mementos in Leierer's home recently, while she was volunteering to deliver him meals through RSVP of Enid.

She and her husband, Jerry Weinand, had worked with Quilts of Valor sewer Betty Martin, of Okeene, to deliver quilts to several other veterans.

Marsha said she was drawn to the Quilts of Valor mission to ensure "every veteran who came back to the U.S. ... is comforted with a quilt and knows we are grateful for their service."

Marsha said she was on the lookout for other veterans who deserved to receive a Quilt of Valor, and when she saw Leierer's medals and heard his story, she knew she needed to contact Martin.

The Weinands presented Leierer with his quilt Thursday morning -- a red, white and blue patriotic piece complete with his name, rank, dates of service and medals embroidered on the back.

Leierer said the quilt is a bigger honor than his medals, and is "one of the nicest gifts I've ever received."

"It's such a beautiful thing," Leierer said, "I don't know if I dare use it."

He decided there's a large space on his living room wall that will be cleared off to make room for the quilt as a hanging, so others can see it, next to his medals.


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