Nearly 70 years later, a Kings Park resident has been recognized for his service in World War II for the first time.
At roughly 12:05 p.m. Oct. 19, former Setauket residents Linda and Larry Heinz presented U.S. Navy vet
Ernie Lanzer with a Quilt of Valor to honor his service to his country. Now 91 years old, Lanzer recounted his time in the service as he was wrapped in the 80-inch by 60-inch handmade blanket in the colors of red, white and blue.
“That was a lifetime ago, it’s ancient history,” he said humbly. “I was only a kid when I went in, 17, maybe 18.”
Lanzer said he registered under the draft and been called to serve near the end of World War II. He recalled fondly his assignment to the U.S.S. Antietam, an Essex-class aircraft carrier, as first-class seaman with the title of aviation machinist mate. His ship was stationed in waters off China and Japan during the period of occupation following the war.
“It really got my life started with aircraft; I went from fixing propellers to working on F-105, a real modern-day jet bomber,” Lanzer said.
Upon leaving the U.S. Navy, he worked on various planes for Farmingdale-based Republic Aviation. In 1961, he would continue to build a legacy of service by joining Engine Company #2 of the Kings Park Fire Department. Lanzer rose up the ranks of the firehouse, serving as fire commissioner from 2000 to 2006.
While recognized by the Kings Park Fire Department for more than 50 years of service in 2010, Lanzer said he doesn’t remember ever being thanked for serving his country before.
“We consider it a privilege to honor you,” his certificate from the Quilts of Valor Foundation reads. “Though we may never know the extent of your sacrifice and services to protect and defend the United States of America, as an expression of gratitude we award you this Quilt of Valor.”
Heinz said she requested a quilt be made to recognize Lanzer for his legacy both of service to his country and community after she joined with the Quilts of Valor Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “cover” all service members and veterans who are physically or psychologically wounded. It started in November 2003 when a quilt was presented to a young soldier from Minnesota who had lost his leg serving in Iraq, according to its website.
“It’s to give them comfort,” she said. “A handmade quilt will always give you comfort no matter who you are.”
Heinz is a member of a volunteer group that calls itself The Myrtle Beach Shore Birds, a group of quilters that has taken up the mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation. Together, they presented 33 quilts to veterans at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base July 3 and have made more than 1,400 such gifts since 2010.
There is no charge for a quilt and the organization openly accepts requests at www.qovf.org. The website also provides information for those willing to volunteer their time to make the quilts by supplying patterns and guidance.