After locating 90 ‘gaps’ in a veteran’s cemetery in Swift Current, Sask., researchers from the Last Post Fund are in the process of identifying who those unmarked graves belong to, so they can be given a headstone.
Randy Brooks, vice president (west) of the Last Post Fund said the group’s mission is to make sure no veteran is buried without a headstone, and no veteran goes without a proper burial and funeral.
Brooks explained that researchers volunteer their time in the summer to go to cemeteries and look for the gaps between headstones or temporary wooden crosses, attempting to identify who is buried in that space. If that person is a veteran, they let the Last Post Fund know.
“After some research to verify that that is in fact that particular veteran, then we arrange to have a proper headstone prepared and placed in that gap so that we can properly honour that individual’s service and sacrifice,” Brooks explained.
Swift Current was recently researched by the organization.
“(Volunteers) found a significant number of either gaps between headstones, or temporary markers, (such as) wooden crosses, which may or may not have the name of the individual on it,” Brooks explained.
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Brooks said researchers were able to find over 90 gaps, and the graves of known individuals are currently being filled. He expects by the end of the year there should be between 50 and 60 total identified.
As for cost, Brooks said it depends on the cemetery, but a headstone typically costs $2,000. The Last Post Fund receives funding from Veteran Affairs Canada and donations from other individuals.
Brooks explained that it’s possible that a field of honour has unmarked graves beside marked ones.
“It’s extraordinary that we can have this whole field of heroes, and even in that field of heroes there can be unknown heroes still lying underground,” Brooks said.
Brooks said most of the veterans buried in Swift Current served in the First and Second World War, and the remainder served in the Korean War, Afghanistan and other peacekeeping operations.
Brooks noted many of the veterans lying in unmarked graves were mothers and fathers. He challenged Canadians to spend the time between Mother’s and Father’s Day volunteering and identifying gaps.
He said once volunteers identify gaps, they can contact the Last Post Fund at www.lastpostfund.ca or 1-800-465-7113