By Lethbridge Herald on November 21, 2023.
Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – email@example.com
Several unmarked veterans’ graves now display military markers in Mountain View Cemetery thanks to the Unmarked Grave Program of the Last Post Fund.
President of the Alberta branch of the Last Post Fund, Glenn Miller spoke to reporters Tuesday and said the placement of the military markers has been possible thanks to many hours of research done by volunteers and the monetary contributions of many community members.
“We wanted to take time before the snow hits the ground to acknowledge the work our volunteers have done from coast to coast in researching and finding unmarked graves of veterans,” said Miller.
He explained that any veteran who lies in an unmarked grave for more than five years is eligible through the Last Post Fund under the unmarked grave program, to have a military style marker either upright, flat or bronze – whatever is specific to a particular cemetery.
“These are funded by Veterans Affairs Canada. They fund about 600 every year, and we’ve got a good problem in the sense that we have found many hundreds and even in the thousands now, of unmarked graves all across Canada. So we have a backlog of having stones to be installed because there’s only so much funding per year,” said Miller.
Due to the lack of funding sufficient to install the backlogged unmarked graves, Miller is asking individuals or businesses who are willing to help in reducing the number of markers waiting to be installed, to donate to the Last Post Fund.
Miller said the unmarked grave program honours and remembers the men and women who have served Canada in a permanent way by providing their resting place with a military style marker.
“In some cases, we’ve got mothers and fathers together. I have a case here where there’s a son buried with his dad. Every stone tells a story, but that story was never found out because we walked by grass in a cemetery. Over time we find these different veterans, identify them, and verify it through the Library and Archives of Canada what their service was to make sure they’re eligible, and then we install a program marker,” said Miller.
He said once markers are installed, Veterans Affairs Canada takes over their perpetual.
“Our primary mission is to make sure that no veteran is denied a dignified funeral, a burial and a marker at their time of death. Some families just can’t afford that and that’s where we can step in. One of the other programs is the unmarked graves program for veterans and we feel that’s important as well, and it’s not just war veterans, it’s any veterans. It started off as war veterans, but today a veteran is a veteran,” said Miller.
He said anyone who has finished basic training and has been honourably discharged is a veteran, and it is important for families to know that as part of their estate planning.
“I talked to a bank teller who spent eight years in reserve – she didn’t think of herself as a veteran, so it’s important,” said Miller.
Anyone wishing to report an unmarked grave of a veteran is encouraged to contact Veteran Affairs Canada and fill out an application.