Wreaths Across America Introduces Normandy Trip Winner
By day, Michael O’Dell Forgy is responsible for protecting the nation’s veterans hospitals working in emergency management with the Department of Veterans Affairs. In his spare time, Mike is a historian passionate about preserving the history of fallen soldiers overseas, notably France, and assisting others in discovering information about their past. Mike’s grandfather is buried in Normandy, and when his grandmother was unable to be buried with him, she had her ashes spread at sea.
Mike is the winner of the Wreaths Across America Normandy Trip contest and is eager to return there as a guest with Wreaths Across America. Like Wreaths Across America, Mike believes it’s important to remember and teach. He’s traveled many times to Normandy providing research details and artifacts like gravestone rubbings or pictures for other families seeking information about loved ones.
“This is the only thing some of these families will ever have of this person at this point in life,” Mike explains. “Maybe it’s a grandfather, or uncle, a cousin or brother. All these pieces are important, so people don’t forget, and family members may never get over there, so these things give them something tangible to hold on to.”
While the intrigue involved with the “detective work” plays a part, his passion for research and desire for accurate information was naturally passed on to Mike as a child. He says his father, Jack O’Dell, was obsessed in a positive way about finding out what happened to his father in France during World War II.
As a result of his father’s determination, Mike has inherited a lot of documentation including letters from the War Department alerting his grandmother to her husband’s death. It stated, “Lt. Col. Percy O. Forgy, Infantry, was killed in action on 27 July 1944 in France.” He also has his grandfather’s “lucky” silver dollar, “worn down from rubbing” and radio logs from the moment his grandfather was hit in combat.
Mike’s father retired as a Colonel and served through two tours of Vietnam. Col. Jack O’Dell Forgy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Mike shared an excerpt from a letter his father sent his Mother when visiting Normandy for the first time. "The cemetery is right on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach where our forces landed on D-Day. From the cemetery you can look down on the beach and out into the English Channel. It is an unbelievably beautiful site they have chosen for a cemetery. It is beautifully maintained - in fact it is as nice or nicer than Arlington."
Finally, "If you had any doubt about leaving Daddy buried in France, I hope they are allayed as I doubt if he could be in a nicer place. The grass is green and well kept, there are memorials and monuments tastefully done throughout."
Mike said he’s incredibly stunned and humbled to win the opportunity to be with Wreaths Across America as they place veterans’ wreaths on foreign soil for the first time in the organization’s history, Saturday, Dec. 1
“I think it’s important for folks to realize how passionate the French are about maintaining those cemeteries and maintaining the memories themselves,” Mike shares. “They’ve adopted these graves, and they leave flowers there so for them to be able to be a part of what Americans have been doing with Wreaths Across America is important for them to show their gratitude for what the United States and allied forces did there.”
Enjoy the trip Mike!