Merrill World War II veterans Gerritt “Chub” Van Der Geest and Lloyd “Bud” Schmitz were presented June 25 with custom, hand-made Quilts of Valor in recognition of their service to their country.
The quilts were designed and assembled by Cheryl Coyer of Merrill, who has now created four quilts for the Quilts of Valor program.
“This is something special to me,” Cheryl said. “Yes, this is a lot of work, but I feel they have put their lives on the line for us to protect our country and to leave their families behind, so I feel that is a good thing for me to pay back,” she said. “The most pleasure for me is to see their faces when these quilts get wrapped around them.”
The presentations were kept a secret from the two World War II vets, who were brought to the Eagles Club by their families on Sunday, June 25.
Quilts of Valor State Coordinator Karen Demaree and volunteer Kathy Krug traveled to Merrill to make the presentations to Van Der Geest and Schmitz.
Van Der Geest served in the Army Air Forces from April 3, 1943 to Oct. 23, 1945, with 10 months overseas. His duties included AP Mechanic-Gunner on a B24 Liberator Bomber in England. He fired aerial machine guns and assisted the pilot in the operation of the airplane by maintaining a constant check of its mechanical functioning, maintained a log of engine performance and reported repairs to the maintenance crew. Gerritt flew 30 successful missions and made Sergent of the 467th Bombardment Group of the 8th AAF. He was awarded two Air Medals, Good Conduct, ETO Theatre with four Bronze Battle Stars, AVN Badge Air Crew Member, Aerial Gunner, Overseas Service Bar and Air Medal with Oak Leaf Clusters. He also was awarded Exceptionally Meritorious Achievement in Aerial Combat over Germany and enemy–occupied France.
Schmitz served from November 1944 to April 1964. He was stationed on the USS AJAX Asia Pacific Theater Repair Ship and Mine Sweeper. Bud’s service to his fellow veterans has extended well past his active military service. A Lifetime Member of the VFW since 1945, he started the Avenue of Flags in Merrill and was named to the All-State Sll American team Post Commander by National VFW. He was also honored by being named Aide-De-Camp to the National VFW by National Commander Andy Borg. There is only a handful of veterans that receive this honor. He has held the VFW offices of Post Commander Post 1638, Senior Vice Commander of the 7th District of Wisconsin, Department of American Chairman of Wisconsin and lead the Post 1638 State Bowling Committee. From 1966-1968 Bed received the 100% Post Commander Pin for Membership United States award from the National Commander. At the age of 92, he is still serving at military funerals and all VFW events.
Cheryl’s sister, Mary Lezotte, was involved with the embroidery work on one of the quilts. Quilter Sara Bohman put the layers together on both quilts.
Cheryl has made six quilts so far; four of them have been presented to local veterans through the Quilt of Valor program. Prior to getting involved with Quilts of Valor, she also made a quilt for her father, Leroy Rice, who fought in the Korea War; and one for the family of a deceased vet.
Quilts of Valor quilters may produce military-themed quilts and donate them to the organization, or they may personally chose the recipients themselves.
“Sometimes people will give me names of vets that they felt would love to have one and be comforted by a quilt,” Cheryl said.
Cheryl made her first official Quilts of Valor presentation last September to local veterans Sheldon Voigt and Allen Olkieves.
“The two vets that got them last year, they take them all over and are so proud of them,” she added. “That is a million to me.”
Cheryl said she already has plans to make more quilts for veterans through the Quilts of Valor program.
“I have four more names and am going to try to get two more done for September of this year yet and then the next ones behind that,
maybe in May 2018,” she said.
Quilts of Valor is a nationwide, all-volunteer organization that has, to date, presented about 162,750 quilts to veterans.
Anyone interested in donating a quilt to Quilt of Valor or requesting a quilt for a veteran can visit www.qovf.org for more information.