Last Post Fund looking for help to honour Veterans in unmarked graves
A non-profit organization helping to support our Veterans is looking for some help to make sure grave markers for Veterans mention their military service and to provide a permanent military marker for those who lie in unmarked graves - they face a number of hurdles, including the pandemic.
The Last Post Fund has a challenge ahead: checking more than 1200 cemeteries in Quebec where military personnel are buried and to provide headstones for those in unmarked graves or where existing gravestones don't mention their military past. Among the reasons: some soldiers are buried in family plots or family weren't aware they could have funding for headstones with their loved ones' military service mentioned on it.
The pandemic means many volunteers won't be able to visit cemeteries in person and will have to rely on local and social media to help them in this project.
"This could well be in the tens of thousands (of graves) actually," said retired Brigadier General and past provincial president of the Last Post Fund Gaston Côté, who is piloting the project in Quebec.
The Unmarked Grave Program program is available to Veterans whose grave hasn't had a permanent headstone or grave marker for five years or more and who haven`t received funeral and burial funding from the Last Post Fund or Veterans Affairs Canada in the past.
Coté said it's important for members of the military to get the recognition they deserve.
"Most of our soldiers have been involved in conflicts or peacekeeping operations quite away in numbers and quite away in terms of distance. And unfortunately people don't really realize all the sacrifice our military have done over the past 100 years," said Côté.
Other challenges include getting in touch with Indigenous communities whose members served in the military - Côté said there is a dedicated team for that.
Another challenge: climate change threatening cemeteries located on eroding river banks, including along the St. Lawrence River.
The funding for the Unmarked Grave Program is ongoing while the federal program and funding for the military grave restoration project ends in 2023.
"It's quite a challenge but once again you need to have eyes on the ground and certainly have people who know the military living in that region and who died recently or more than five years ago," said Côté.
For more information, you can contact Last Post Fund.