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When JCU senior Michael FitzGerald traveled to France over spring break, he completed a generations-long quest to find the gravestone of his great, great, great uncle. 

Since he was a boy, Michael heard stories about Orlie Earnest Moore, a Second Division Marine that was killed in action during World War I. While Michael would never meet Orlie, he has always felt like he knew what kind of man Orlie was. Orlie was born in Cleveland on December 28th, 1898, and at just 19 years old he was sent off to fight the German forces invading France during the first World War. Orlie was one of the Second Division Marines fighting a counterattack to protect Paris near the town of Vierzy when he was killed in action on July 19th, 1918. To Michael, Orlie’s story symbolizes bravery, adventure, and sacrifice; which is why his name is still carried on within Michael’s family to this day. 

Battle Map France
Map of Allied counterattack featuring various divisions, including Orlie's, protecting Paris from invasion.

A few months ago, Michael learned of an opportunity to travel to France over spring break. When Michael told his family, they were ecstatic. Almost as soon as Michael told his "Gramps" about his spring break trip, he knew he would somehow find a way to visit Orlie’s grave. He began researching, and was able to locate the correct cemetery, plot number, and some general directions on how to get there.

Fast forward a few months and Michael, after meticulous planning and a safe arrival in France, was ready to embark on his journey to Orlie's grave. After a couple of hours traveling through the French countryside, Michael arrived at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, in Seringes-et-Nesles, France.

Upon arrival, Michael stood among hundreds of white crosses lining the grass. Respectfully, he made his way to the grave of the man who inspired bravery and perseverance for four generations of the Moore family. As he walked, all was quiet except for the sound of birds chirping in the soft wind. At the precise moment he reached Orlie’s grave, bells began to ring, cutting through the silence, almost as if Orlie himself was welcoming Michael. Michael felt called to be the first of his family to visit Orlie in his final resting place. In this moment, Michael recounts feeling a sense of clarity, closure, and a powerful sense of connection with the past. 

After over 100 years of waiting, Michael had at last met his great, great, great uncle. Michael could almost sense the gratitude from Orlie that, finally, his family had come to visit.

Although it was 6:00 AM in Cleveland, Michael FaceTimed his grandfather to show him Orlie's resting place. Together, they shared a prayer with Orlie over the phone, and chatted for a bit about how powerful this moment was for their family. His grandfather had heartwarming words for Michael saying, “Michael, my father thanks you, my grandfather thanks you, I thank you. I’m sure Orlie Earnest Moore thanks you, you’re a great soul.” 

Michael, my father thanks you, my grandfather thanks you, I thank you. I’m sure Orlie Earnest Moore thanks you, you’re a great soul.
- Roger Moore, Michael's maternal grandfather

After this gathering of generations, Michael made his way into the reception area of the cemetery, where he met with a former American marine named Hubert Caloud. Caloud was born in Iowa and served for thirty years in the Marine Corps before joining the American Battle Monuments Commission, later becoming the superintendent of the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery. Caloud understood exactly why Michael would embark on such a challenging trip, and was happy to show Michael the documents related to Orlie’s life and death. He even helped Michael digitize the copies to bring home to his family back in Cleveland. After learning more about the history of the cemetery, as well as Caloud’s personal history, Michael asked for directions to the very field where Orlie was killed. 

Orlie Certificate
Death certificate of Orlie Earnest Moore from Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in Seringes-et-Nesles France.

So Michael set out, this time with much less specific directions, and attempted to find the field outside of Vierzy, his only landmark being a large white stone with a star carved into it. As he went, Michael stopped to ask for directions from locals who hardly knew any English. The people were extremely polite and helpful, and Michael noted that one man resorted to pointing and gesturing to guide Michael to the stone. Eventually, Michael came upon the large, white boulder resting next to a sign for Vierzy, France. It was on that very field that Orlie and his fellow soldiers battled the German forces in World War I, all to protect Paris from invasion. It was in that battle that Orlie Earnest Moore was killed at the young age of 19. 

At the end of the day, Michael had accomplished something that his family had been planning for decades. In an experience that was almost religious, Michael brought closure to the entire Moore ancestry. According to Michael, “If we don’t honor our roots and the sacrifices they made, we can’t appreciate the lives that we’re living.” 

If we don’t honor our roots and the sacrifices they made, we can’t appreciate the lives that we’re living.

Without this trip abroad, it is uncertain whether anyone from Michael’s family would have ever found their way to this place and the person that meant so much to them. Michael is forever grateful to have been given this opportunity. 

Travel abroad is more than just a fun, touristy experience. It provides students with the tools and confidence to grow outside of their comfort zone, try new things, learn about others, and share experiences. It is not just a vacation. It draws connections to other areas of people’s lives, connecting students to their history, culture, and religion. It creates stories, and storytellers.

For Michael, these memories will last a lifetime.

All photos by Michael FitzGerald, '22. Article by Lucia Carpinelli '22, CAS Social Media and Marketing Intern.
Orlie Gravestone

Gravestone of Orlie Earnest Moore, WWI soldier.