SIERRA MADRE, CA — The Sierra Madre Post Office, located at 61 S. Baldwin Avenue, Sierra Madre CA 91024, will be named for Sergeant Louis Van Iersel, an immigrant and veteran of World Wars I & II, who resided for many years in Sierra Madre. Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) introduced a bill on March 16, 2016, to dedicate and name the Sierra Madre Post Office for Van Iersel. The bill was passed and signed into law by President Obama on July 29, 2016, as Public Law 114-207.
A public ceremony will be held at the Sierra Madre Post Office on Nov. 1, 2016, at 11:00 a.m. “Sergeant Louis Van Iersel’s life was the true example of the American dream,” said Congresswoman Chu in a statement released last May when the U.S. House of Representatives passed her bill. “As an immigrant, he immediately sought to serve his new country and did so with incredible valor and heroism. Not just in one World War, but two.”
Van Iersel arrived in the United States from the Netherlands in 1917. On the day he arrived, he applied for citizenship, registered for the draft and enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to Army kitchen duty because he didn’t speak English, but after four months he learned the language and eventually was promoted to corporal in the 2nd Infantry Division and served in France at the end of World War I. There he braved gunfire to carry 17 soldiers to safety. He also used his native German language to infiltrate enemy trenches and convince them to surrender and gathered information on German troop movements that saved 1,000 American lives. For his service and gallantry, Van Iersel was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor, and also two Croix de Guerres, a French military medal for heroism.
After World War I, Van Iersel moved to Sierra Madre, CA, where he became a U.S. citizen, a husband and father of three. He worked for the City of Los Angeles in the Engineering Department. When World War II began, he and his three sons all reported to enlist in the Army. Van Iersel was turned away because of his age, so he enlisted with the Marines and served with the 3rd Marine Division in the Bougainville Campaign in the Pacific.
He returned to Sierra Madre in 1945 and remained an active member of the community for many years until his health forced him to move closer to a son in Oregon. He passed away in Oregon on June 9, 1987, at the age of 93.
“We at the Sierra Madre Post Office are very proud to have our building named for American hero and longtime resident Louis Van Iersel,” said Sierra Madre Postmaster Anna Rodriguez.
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