ELIZABETHTOWN — About 70 years ago, Leroy Pierson was awarded several medals during and following his service in the military during World War II.
On Tuesday, he was awarded those medals once again.
“This means everything to me. It’s a wonderful day for me,” said Pearson. “This brings back memories from 70 years ago.”
Somehow over the years, Pierson’s medals were lost. But with the assistance of a newfound friend and a local politician, Pierson’s medals came home.
That effort began several years ago at the former Bladen Fitness Center, where Pierson was a member. He met and struck up a friendship with Darrell Page, the former president of Bladen Community College, and Page eventually introduced Pierson to U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre.
“He told me he was a World War II veteran and that he had lost all of his medals,” Page said. “He can still remember just what he was doing when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”
That friendship with Page and introduction to McIntyre led to Tuesday’s presentation of a new set of medals — as well as a Congressional Regognition Certificate.
“That is what life is about. People like Mr. Pirrson. He is an example of an invisible hero,” said Page. “They (our veterans) have suffered and done so much.”
McIntyre described Pierson and those like him as dedicated individuals.
“Thank you, Congressman, for replacing this for me. Thank you, Mr. Page, also. Today will be one I will remember,” said Pierson. “These are beautiful. This is a special day for me.”
Pearson received a standing ovation from the audience as he accepted his medals.
After the ceremony Pearson shared some of his experiences.
After being drafted following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Pearson was sent to Fort Lee, Va. After taking combat training, he was sent to New Guinea.
“Once you got into a combat area, you pretty much did everything. You did everything that needed to be done,” said Pierson.
He said his most gruesome assignment while at New Guinea was moving a cemetery. But, Pierson’s unit was mainly a hospital unit.
“Whenever a ship came with casualties we had to move them and transfer them to the hospital,” said Pierson.
He said while stationed in New Guinea he got to meet Gen. Douglas McArthur.
“We met him on a night when we had some heavy casualties in that area and he came in to console the troops,” said Pierson. “I also met him again in Manila in the Philippines.”
Shortly after, Pearson served with another historic general.
“I had the opportunity to assist one of the generals — Gen. Joseph Stilwell,” said Pearson. “I also witnessed the killing of the Japanese general in charge of Manila.”
Pierson was also in the transport that was supposed to invade the Japanese homeland, but at the last minute, President Roosevelt decided to drop the atomic bomb.
Pearson did eventually make it to the Japanese mainland. In the latter part of 1945 Pearson said he was in Japan and remained there until the spring of 1946, when he was discharged.