After three years searching for the stories of Oklahoma soldiers who had fallen overseas, Maysville’s Michael Beach is branching out to look for 1,200 stories around the United States and its territories.
Beach spent six months traveling through 23 cemeteries and placing the Oklahoma state rock, the rose rock, on over 2,000 graves of Oklahoma soldiers.
"Everything started when I visited a Normandy cemetery and walked up to an Oklahoman’s grave. I gave him a rose rock and found about twenty others that day. When I went back, I visited the 144 Oklahoma soldiers in the cemetery and gave all of them a rose rock," Beach shared.
From there, the journey expanded but with the expansion came struggles.
"On several occasions I wanted to walk away from my journey and come back home. I had very little money and my feet were so badly blistered because of walking that I shouldn’t have been walking but I had to so I could get through all the cemeteries," said Beach.
"On the days I didn’t have a host to stay with I would have an apple or orange for breakfast and for supper pasta and tomato paste. I would also camp with a tent and a sleeping bag I had on my backpack to save money," continued Beach.
"Once I had made it to each of the cemeteries the thought of going home was washed away and I worked at finding the soldiers. It was hard work but I realized that if I didn’t do this that no one would and these men would not have a piece of Oklahoma with them."
Upon returning home Beach began his search for stories to go with these fallen men. He wanted these men to be remembered as more than a name and a rock.
While that may seem like an easy task, Beach hit roadblock after roadblock.
"All too many times I have had family members tell me, ‘I wish I had known about this a year ago because my mom was alive and she knew everything about my uncle buried overseas.’"
So far Beach has gathered around fifty stories, some only partially complete, of WWI and WWII members of the military from Oklahoma.
Beach is now in the process of looking for stories of soldiers from other states.
"I have decided to find one story from each state for each of the 23 cemeteries located overseas and Hawaii."
The stories that Beach collects will be shared with each soldier’s cemetery so that others passing through them can hear the tales and histories of these honorable men.
Beach is looking for copies of photos, letters, family stories, information about the soldier’s life, and even history of the area during the time the soldiers lived there.
Anyone who has any information on a solider who is buried overseas, please contact Beach by visiting apieceofhomeusa.com to arrange a digital transfer.
Information can also be sent by mail to:
P.O. Box 582
Maysville, OK 73057