As we #Countdown to Wreath Day 2017, we remind volunteers to say their names while placing a remembrance wreath. This post is submitted by Thomas Freeza, Director of Education at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy about his great-uncle Sgt. Albert Forgue who is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60, Site 8675.
Florence Leal recalls the first time she saw her father cry. It was Dec. 29, 1944, after she saw Mr. Gilson, the local pharmacist in Centredale, RI, come up the street to deliver a telegram. All three of her older brothers, Francis, Walter and Albert Forgue, were serving in World War II. Her oldest brothers, Francis and Walter, were with the Marines in the South Pacific, and her youngest brother, Albert, 20, was a U.S. Army Air Force sergeant and a gunner with the 644th Bomber Squadron, 410th Bomber Group, Light, 97th Bomb Wing, 9th Air Force, that was making bombing runs over Germany.
“My father went to get the telegram, but never came up,” says Florence. “That’s when I went down and saw him at the bottom of the stairs crying.”
The telegram from the Department of War said that Albert and two other men had been shot down near Wollseifen, Germany, on Dec. 12, and that they had been missing since.
Later, the family would learn that the A-20J Havoc aircraft (named Carol the Rebel) that had flown out of Coulommiers, France, was last seen entering a steep dive near Cologne, Germany. The news was devastating for everyone in the family. One year after his disappearance, the Department of War declared Albert dead and a funeral was held at St. Lawrence Church in Centredale, RI. He was 20 years old.
Albert’s remains and those of the two other men on that fateful mission — 2nd Lt. John F. Lubben of Wisconsin and gunner Sgt. Charles L. Spiegel of Illinois — were positively identified in 2006. Unbeknownst to the family at the time, a German company that had been clearing mines and unexposed ordinance came upon a shallow grave in 1975 containing the bodies of several unidentified Americans, in the woods near Simmerath, Germany. Upon the discovery, the remains were sent to be reburied along with other unknowns in the Ardennes American Military Cemetery in Neupré, Belgium.
Florence and her daughter, Victoria Frezza, knew there was a possibility that Albert’s remains had been found was when Maford Klein, a German soldier on a private mission to find and identify Americans who had been declared missing in action, reported in 2001 that his MIA group had recovered a parachute and pieces of the airplane similar to the one shot down in 1944.
Based on that report, the Department of Defense’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command ordered that the bodies of the three unknown servicemen be exhumed. It was one more victory of sorts for the JPAC, which has been able to identify about 75 remains a year of the 88,000 American servicemen who have been declared missing in 20th-century conflicts. The bodies of the three airmen were brought back to the US and were buried in Arlington on 20 April 2008.
Florence says her brother was an easygoing teenager who, maybe because he was a few years older, liked to “boss me around.” “He was very handy and could fix anything.” He didn’t much care for school and quit North Providence High before graduation to work at the Greystone Mill and as a truck driver for Centredale Lumber. Unlike his two brothers, who had volunteered for the Marines, Albert waited until he turned 18 and then registered for the draft. He entered the service in February 1943.
Terry says veterans make up about 18 percent of the Berkshire Hathaway company's workforce. Wreaths Across America gives them the opportunity to recognize veterans across the country but most importantly says Terry to honor their employees who served.
Wreaths Across America announced that its Executive Director Karen Worcester and Founder Morrill Worcester were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award, the highest award the Society can bestow to an individual.
I was a Navy spouse for 12 years and during that time we lost over two dozen of our closest friends. Most of whom are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
Photo Contest Winners Announced
Wreaths Across America chose the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) in Louisville, KY, from March 22-24 to debut its newly designed Traveling Education Exhibit. This 48-foot display trailer hooked to its Chevy truck was loaded with many “hands on” technology and interactive information about the program to help visitors learn about the mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach.
Chairman of the Board of Directors, Wayne Hanson was honored to be one of the Wreaths Across America team accompanying the exhibit, where one of the more memorable things he had the pleasure of doing was to say two words to some of those present…”Welcome Home!”
As the only fully-integrated recycling provider in Central Texas, TDS joined in the effort to remember, honor and teach by donating their services.
All of the 30 Medal of Honor Recipients in attendance during the four days of events were glad to have a chance to meet Morrill and Karen.
The goal of the S.W.A.T. training is to create a core "support group" for location and fundraising volunteers with more experienced leaders joining the ranks every year.
"If you're an American, you're proud to do it. I know it's probably one of the best things I've done every year."
Mission Matters with Karen Worcester is a new program heard only on Wednesdays on Wreaths Across America Radio. Here's the schedule of the shows coming up and a link to the station.
Anyone who really knows me knows that I am often a walking Wreaths Across America billboard. They will normally see me sporting a WAA-branded sweatshirt or t-shirt, my blue and green WAA wristband and my ever-present WAA baseball cap. I’m proud of my connection with WAA and love to promote what we do and why we do it.
That being said, I want to relate a recent encounter I had while standing in line at our local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office the other day.
Air Force Veteran*, Wayne Merritt, currently manages the Veterans Transportation Program based out of Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Maine. Monday thru Friday, Wayne travels to area towns in the Downeast region to pick up veterans and bring them to their doctors’ appointments. This is just one of the many free programs Wreaths Across America offers to veterans and their families.
Military children worry about their parent’s safety very day. These children face many challenges, frequent moves and lengthy separation due to trainings and deployments. They take on more responsibilities and worry about their parent every day.
"I really don't see it stopping, and we want people to tell us where they see it. Take pictures and videos when you check it out and share them with us on social media."
Debbie says she and the transportation team are excited about new and more efficient systems that will be in place for 2018 and beyond.
To come up with an accurate wreath count for sponsorships, great effort was taken to assure no one was forgotten.
As we approached, Morrill and I began to realize that here laid the body of a very important veteran that we had apparently overlooked for the past 26 years in our annual wreath placement.
The many stops along the way at schools, veterans organizations, police and fire stations were also overflowing with love and good wishes.
I want my daughter to grow up understanding what true heroes are and the sacrifices that have been made for us to live in a free country.
Complete strangers just moments before, together, Denny and Ella read the name on her grandfather's headstone and talked some about him while laying his wreath.
"When she explained to us what Wreaths Across America is and does, it was a no-brainer for me that we would get involved."
On behalf of her father Rod, Cindi shared her grandfather's words with the audience during the memorial service. You can hear her presentation and see other highlights from the service in this video.
These two quiet and humble individuals are a team dedicated to giving back to their nation. They educate others by sharing their experiences and lessons of love and sacrifice not just from the war but the other "battlefields of life."
To better serve our volunteers in 2018 and beyond, we're reorganizing and providing more tools to support their inspiring efforts.
"I witnessed a few of the boys laying an "in honor of" wreath. They did it with reverence."
Guided by an infrangible faith when the supply of lifejackets ran out they gave up their own to save the lives of others.
"I went up to that hill and looked at all of those graves of my colleagues who have gone before me.
Volunteers planning to assist in removing wreaths are asked to attend a short briefing at the McClellan Gate at 8:30 a.m. and to follow these guidelines.
As witnessed through this video, the volunteer commitment of patriotic citizens is a year-round effort that culminates in a remarkable day of unity, friendship, and healing.
Some give the ultimate sacrifice of a loved one and are often left in sorrow to wonder if other citizens remember or appreciate what they gave up for liberty and justice for all.