On a cool May 2016 Madison, Minnesota day, a very special gathering was taking place in the home of WWII veteran, Carlyle Larsen. He was meeting the brother of fellow 1943 Army Cadet, Andrew J. Leier from Kintyre, North Dakota,.
Leier and Larsen met in basic training while stationed at Sheppard Field near Wichita Falls, Texas. Both yearned to become part of pilot training. Instead, Larsen was sent to radio communication training in St. Louis, Missouri and Leier to gunnery training in Kingman, Arizona. Their shared farming backgrounds and similar personalities drew them together during training. Death separated them.
Leier was aboard a B-17 when he lost his life over Muenster, Germany on October 7, 1944.After rising to the rank of Sergeant, Larsen returned to Minnesota to seek employment after completing his service. He’d heard of Sergeant Leier’s death but for reason unbeknownst to himself today, Larsen never reached out to Leier’s North Dakota family. That is until April 2016.
Larsen was attending a wedding celebration in Madison when he met Tony and Rita Wangler who had raised their family and attended the same church near Kintyre, ND as the brother of Sergeant Leier, Anton Leier. Learning this, Larsen asked the Wanglers to provide Anton his contact information.
Anton and wife, Alvera, were overjoyed to learn of the connection. After all, Anton was only six-years-old when his brother Andrew left for the Army and has very few memories of him. Meeting someone who knew Andrew as an adult and member of the U.S. Army brought Anton “warm fuzzy feelings.”
The day was spent reminiscing over photographs and preserved communiques, and other memorabilia. Anton, who also served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era, easily understood the significance of the gathering and the special meaning of seeing Larsen’s uniform and sharing his brothers medals.
Larsen readily admitted he knew that he and Leier would have remained lifelong friends had it not been for their separation and Leier’s subsequent death.
The families committed to remain in contact. Larsen plans to repay the visit by traveling to North Dakota to meet Leier’s remaining siblings. Since the initial reunion, telephone calls have been exchanged with expressions of gratitude from both parties.
It’s never too late to connect and to honor those who served.
article by Linda Leier Thomason