Arnold Raymond has a mission that has brought him to the cemetery at the Abundant Life Pentecostal Church on Main Streets in Cowansville ever since he was a child: to honour someone who died before he was born, but whose sacrifice had a profound impact.
“It’s my grandfather,” he explains. “He served in the army here in Canada.
But this year, Raymond’s operation is a little different. Unlike the graves of many veterans, his grandfather’s doesn’t identify him as a former soldier — so Raymond decided to do something about that.
He installed a white marker along with a Canadian flag, so everyone knows of his grandfather’s service.
“I came up with the idea in March,” he says. “Seeing as how it’s the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War, I decided to do it for my grandfather.”
The marker has a poppy printed on it with the word ‘veteran.’
“I hurt a lot,” says Raymond, fighting back tears, “because not enough of these people are being recognized for what they’ve given us today.”
So he’s not stopping there. He’s doing the same thing to unmarked graves of other veterans he knows, like Alfred john Forrester, who served in the navy during the Second World War.
“He was my first boss when I started working here at the factory in Cowansville,” he says proudly.
His wife was Raymond’s Sunday school teacher.
But his work is nowhere near complete, because when people in the Brome-Missisquoi county found out what he was doing, they came calling.
“They’re asking me, ‘can we have one of those for my father’s grave, my uncle’s grave, my nephew, my niece or something,'” he says, shaking his head. “We’re gonna do our damnest to make sure we use up the 200 that we made.”
So he recruited help from friends — all of whom, like Michael Jennings, have family members who served in one war or another.
“My dad was in the Royal Canadian Air Force,” he tells Global News. “He fought overseas and he was shot down in 1943.”
He adds that the project is good for the area because it brings recognition to members of the community who served.
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Alan Sherrer agrees. Both his parents were in the Second World War.
“My mother was in the air force in England and my father was in the army here and my father-in-law was also in the army,” he says. He doesn’t think veterans get enough recognition for their sacrifice. For him, making the markers is a token of appreciation.
“Our rights are being protected 24/7,” Raymond adds. “The ones that are serving and protecting that, they have to be recognized when they’re gone.”
The group wants to install the markers every year — lest others forget.