Ted Usher is a retired police detective and Reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces and for the last month, he has been combining both passions in an effort to provide forgotten Canadian veterans with the respect they deserve.
“There is a grave here but there is no marker, and this is what I’m looking for,” Usher told CHEK News at the Courtenay Civic Cemetery Friday as he pointed to a patch of grass near other gravestones.
It is estimated there could be 2000 to 3000 unmarked graves of veterans in Canada, either due to family circumstances at the time, or that they were simply forgotten over time.
The Unmarked Graves Program began in 1996 and 7000 graves now have a marker identifying the person as a veteran.
Ted Usher has found 12 in Courtenay so far.
“I’m basically just going through these catalogues and when I find a name that has been identified as not having a stone or headstone that’s there, then I check a multitude of databases to try to find any hint of information that they may be a veteran,” he said.
He’s one of many researchers across the country doing the very same thing.
“I want to make sure those who were fortunate enough to come back to Canada after serving overseas and those that served post-war that they’re identified so that when people are walking through the cemeteries they can see these headstones and identify them as someone who was prepared to give their sacrifice to Canada and that’s why I do it,” Usher said.
There is also a more recent Indigenous Veterans Initiative started in 2019 that finds First Nations veterans in unmarked graves. A total of 75 have been found and marked across Canada so far.
Information on the program can be found here.