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Momentum growing for Unknown Soldier celebration

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Momentum growing for Unknown Soldier celebration

Post by Guest on Thu 10 Aug 2017, 06:18

Momentum growing for Unknown Soldier celebration

By Ray Spiteri, Niagara Falls Review
Wednesday, August 9, 2017 4:06:36 EDT PM

Work continues on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Fairview Cemetery in Niagara Falls cemetery.

Members of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment are expected to come out in full force to honour one of their own during a September service celebrating the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Niagara Falls.

Members of the regiment’s association and foundation are expected to serve as pallbearers, while others will march in the colour party during a re-interment ceremony at Fairview Cemetery.

The service is set for Sept. 16 at 10:30 a.m. at the cemetery, located at the corner of Stanley Avenue and Morrison Street.

The service will be open to the public and will recognize the Unknown Soldier as he is laid to rest in the tomb.

It will also celebrate fallen soldiers as the ongoing restoration of the cemetery’s Fields of Honour is recognized.

The Unknown Soldier, who served with the 19th Lincoln Regiment during the First World War, was originally laid to rest in Section M of the Field of Honour, and his grave was simply identified with a small, flat marker.

After calls were received for a more prominent recognition, a larger memorial was designed in a new location with a raised crypt monument to serve as the new tomb, as well as a second memorial monument to be flanked by the Canadian and Union Jack flags.

The crypt is not expected to be delivered until about a week before the Sept. 16 official military funeral.

The design of the new memorial also incorporates the planting of two Vimy Oaks, which were donated by Royal Canadian Legion Branch 479, adjacent to the tomb.

The new memorial and monument are being installed on one of the cemetery’s islands, which serves as a predominant, highly visible and central location.

In addition to the tomb and related memorial plaza, a new Field of Honour has been developed, including the restoration of 200 veteran graves.

The two initiatives have been made possible by the work of the city’s cemetery services department, in partnership with Royal Canadian Legion Branch 479 and 51; the British Canadian Veterans Association; the Lincoln and Welland Regiment Foundation; Kirkpatrick Monument; Campbell Monument; Morse and Son Funeral Home; the Order of St. George; and Ground Aerial Maintenance.

The project will cost about $400,000.

The federal government, through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Veterans Affairs Canada, provided $75,000.

The city allocated about $315,000, while community businesses and organizations are contributing about $40,000 through in-kind donations.

Local legions have helped secure donations and sponsorships.

“I don’t know of any other cemetery in Niagara region — I don’t know of any other cemetery other than the memorial in Ottawa — that’s going to look as good as this one,” said Doug Reece, a former soldier and current member of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment’s association and foundation.

“It’s phenomenal.”

During the First World War, one of the tasks of the local militia was to guard the international crossings between Canada and the United States from espionage.

According to the regiment, one of its soldiers was discovered in the Niagara Gorge below the Whirlpool Bridge in 1934.

The results of an autopsy revealed the soldier had fallen into the gorge in approximately 1916.

The only identification on him was his brass buckles indicating he was with the 19th Lincoln Regiment.

His boots, coat and pieces of uniform were also found.

This unidentified soldier has laid in an unmarked grave at Fairview Cemetery since that time with a small, flat marker inscribed Unknown Soldier.

Reece said about three or four years ago, the legion asked him to participate in the annual parade for the Unknown Soldier.

“We marched into the cemetery and I said, ‘where’s the grave marker?’ and they said, ‘right there,’ and I said, ‘where?’ and they said, ‘there,’ and I looked and there was just a little, not even two foot by two foot (flat marker) … and I said, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me, what an embarrassment.’”

Reece said he discussed the issue with the sergeant at arms of one of the legion branches, who approached Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates.

He said Gates agreed a more prominent memorial should be created, and approached city hall.

“It’s all history from there,” said Reece.

He said just minutes after sending a message to regiment association members, asking for as many as possible to participate in the Sept. 16 ceremony, he started receiving positive responses.

“I’ve got 12 volunteers so far coming out. There’s at least half a dozen more that haven’t responded that are coming anyway.”

Reece said it’s important the regiment, and the community, pay proper respect to “people that stepped up to the plate” to serve their country.

“This guy gave up his life. More and more veterans, when they find out what has happened in Niagara Falls with the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Fields of Honour, where all the gravestones have all been straightened, all the flat markers gone and all the uprights put in, they come along and they say, ‘it’s about time, that is unbelievable.’”


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