Ted Usher is seeking information regarding unmarked graves of Canadian veterans in the Comox Valley, to ensure they get a proper grave marking. It’s part of a Canada-wide program called the Unmarked Grave Program, through the Last Post Fund. Photo supplied.

Ted Usher is seeking information regarding unmarked graves of Canadian veterans in the Comox Valley, to ensure they get a proper grave marking. It’s part of a Canada-wide program called the Unmarked Grave Program, through the Last Post Fund. Photo supplied.

Comox man spearheading effort to find unmarked graves of veterans in the Comox Valley

Unmarked Grave Program provides permanent military markers for veterans who lie in unmarked graves

Comox resident Ted Usher is volunteering for a Canadian initiative to ensure all buried veterans receive a proper grave marking.

The Unmarked Grave Program is an initiative of the Last Post Fund.

The Last Post Fund was created in 1909, in Montreal, when the orderly of a hospital raised funds to ensure a British veteran who had died in the hospital received a “decent and dignified funeral.”

Since that day, the Last Post Fund has provided financial benefits for nearly 150,000 servicemen and women.

Its mission is “to ensure that no veteran is denied a dignified funeral and burial, as well as a military gravestone, due to insufficient funds at the time of death.”

The Last Post Fund started the Unmarked Grave Program in 1996, and has marked more than 6,900 graves in that 25-year span.

It is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 veterans are lying in unmarked graves across Canada.

According to the website (lastpostfund.ca), the objective of the Unmarked Grave Program is to provide a permanent military marker for eligible veterans who lie in unmarked graves.

The program is available to eligible veterans whose grave has not had a permanent headstone or foot marker for five years or more, and who have not previously received funeral and burial funding from the Last Post Fund or Veterans Affairs Canada. Proof of military service, as well as a death certificate (where available), are requested in order to establish the veterans’ identity.

Usher, a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces himself, has taken on the task of finding as many unmarked graves of veterans in the Courtenay and Cumberland cemeteries as possible, and hopefully giving them a proper marking.

He said his brother got him involved as a researcher.

“My older brother, Ken, has been with the Last Post Fund for about 20 years,” said Ted. “I was visiting him a couple of weeks ago in the Okanagan and we got talking about it, and he said there really isn’t anybody on Vancouver Island who does this, so would I think about it.

“So I became involved with the Last Post Fund a couple of weeks ago, just to get involved with the Unmarked Grave Program… but I’ve been familiar with the Last Post Fund for at least 20 years.”

Ted Usher said there’s really no way to tell how many unmarked graves there are in the Comox Valley.

“You really have to just go out and try to find them,” he said. “That’s why I am reaching out to the media… just to put the word out and see if I can get any responses and start from there.”

Usher is hoping to make contact with any family members of veterans who may be buried, unmarked, in the Comox Valley.

“If a family reading the story comes forward and says ‘we would like to have a proper… military marker, I can make an application for that,” he said. “I will submit an application to the Last Post Fund in Montreal… and we will check the person’s military history before making a final decision.”

The grave itself would not be disturbed in any way – simply marked with an appropriate headstone.

Usher added that before any unmarked grave he discovers through his own research is marked, “all attempts will be made to consult the family if they can be located.”

He also wants to reach out to the Indigenous community.

“(The) Indigenous Veterans Initiative started in March 2019,” said Usher. “Up until April 2021, 74 have been approved and marked for First Nations Veterans, and 175 submitted and many are being investigated.”

Usher can be reached at 604-916-4605, or via email at tedusher@gmail.com