The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is concerned that individuals are placing stickers and other markings on veterans’ headstones without realizing the damage they are causing.
David Kettle, the secretary-general of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Canadian Agency, said that over the past 10 years it has become common practice to place adhesive stickers on both veterans’ graves and war graves to recognize the occupants’ service.
“I can certainly understand the sentiment behind this practice and at least at first the stickers look attractive. The problem is that they don’t stay attractive,” said Kettle.
Weather soon takes its toll on the stickers which detract from the appearance of the headstone. Commission and cemetery staff then have to clean the headstone. This costs the commission thousands of dollars each year and often the headstone remains permanently stained.
“It is not just the adhesive stickers. I was recently visiting Prospect Cemetery in Toronto and I saw the aftermath of what someone obviously thought was an attempt to recognize our war dead. The person had spent hours making poppies out of some red plastic fabric and then gluing them to our war graves. The glue was used in copious amounts,” said Kettle. “When my inspecting officer and the cemetery staff tried to remove the poppies, the staining remained, as did the glue which had turned pink as well. What a mess and what a shame.”
The commission is responsible for 14,500 headstones in Canada. These include Commonwealth war dead and headstones provided under contract for Veterans Affairs Canada or the Last Post Fund.
Kettle advised that placing a wreath in a field of honour or planting a small marker or national flag by a grave is a proper way to show respect.