Cowansville Le­gion mem­bers tak­ing ac­tion to right a grave in­jus­tice

Sherbrooke Record - - FRONT PAGE - By Gor­don Lam­bie

Cowansville Le­gion mem­ber Arnold Ray­mond led a team of vol­un­teers over the past weeks in a spe­cial task of re­mem­brance. In­spired by Ray­mond’s de­ci­sion to fash­ion a home­made “vet­eran” marker for his grand­fa­ther’s non-mil­i­tary grave ear­lier this year, the team as­sem­bled and in­stalled 200 sim­i­lar mark­ers on “un­rec­og­nized” vet­er­ans graves across Brome-mis­sisquoi

“It’s sad that so many vet­er­ans’ graves are not iden­ti­fied,” the Le­gion mem­ber said, ar­gu­ing that more work should be done by the gov­ern­ment to rec­og­nize and hon­our those sol­diers who served in var­i­ous con­flicts over time.

The ex­act num­ber of un­marked vet­eran’s graves in Canada is un­known, but has been es­ti­mated in the past to be as high as 30,000. Ray­mond spec­u­lated that a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of vet­er­ans do

not have proper mark­ers iden­ti­fy­ing their ser­vice. In the case of this project, he started with his own grand­fa­ther be­cause of the per­sonal sig­nif­i­cance of the man’s sac­ri­fices, but word spread from there to the point where he had a list of 200 lo­cal graves to mark.

“That’s all I can af­ford to do,” Ray­mond said, ex­plain­ing that he is cer­tain there are more graves to mark, but that he is pay­ing for the mark­ers out of pocket. “I don’t mind,” he clar­i­fied, “I’m just giv­ing back what those guys gave up all those years ago.”

Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Canada does pro­vide a Fu­neral and Burial Pro­gram, but ac­cord­ing to the Vet­er­ans Af­fairs web­site, the el­i­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria vary de­pend­ing on the cir­cum­stances of death and fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion of vet­eran in ques­tion. In June of 1996 the Last Post Fund, a not-for profit or­ga­ni­za­tion es­tab­lished to de­liver the fu­neral and burial pro­gram, cre­ated the “Un­marked Grave Pro­gram” whose ob­jec­tive is to pro­vide a per­ma­nent mil­i­tary-style marker for el­i­gi­ble Vet­er­ans who lie in un­marked graves, but un­like Ray­mond’s project, the Last Post Fund pro­gram is only avail­able to el­i­gi­ble Vet­er­ans whose grave has not had a per­ma­nent head­stone or foot marker for five years or more. “They should all be marked,” Ray­mond said.

COUR­TESY

Arnold Ray­mond worked on his grave mark­ers along­side child­hood friends, all of whom had fam­ily mem­bers who served in wars in the past

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