Fix it or take it, says veteran’s son

Andrew Robinson
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Man says Veterans Affairs won’t repair his father’s headstone

David Fleming of St. John’s is furious with the Department of Veterans Affairs over the way it has handled looking after his late father’s headstone.
— Photo by Andrew Robinson/The Telegram

David Fleming is proud of his late father’s contribution to the Second World War, but he does not believe the Department of Veterans Affairs feels the same way.

“It’s disrespectful and disgraceful in my eyes,” said Fleming.

Fleming spent the last year and a half trying to get the federal government to repair his father’s headstone, and his frustration has boiled over such that he’s considering removing it and delivering it to Veterans Affairs.

Gerald Fleming was a member of the 166th Newfoundland Field Regiment Royal Artillery in the Second World War. He managed to survive while making his way across Europe as part of the war effort.

“He was one of the lucky ones,” said his son, standing beside Gerald Fleming’s headstone.

The veteran died in 1988 and was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Mount Pearl.

Over time, Fleming began to believe that his father’s headstone was sinking into the ground. He contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs last year asking them for help, and was told Muir’s Marble Works is contracted to handle their graves.

An employee of Muir’s looked at the headstone and contacted Fleming, telling him a ground sleeve should have been placed under the headstone to help it maintain its proper height.

Fleming said a report was sent from Muir’s to Veterans Affairs outlining the necessary repairs, but he said the company has received no further instructions from the government.

“If that’s what they think of their fallen heroes, it doesn’t say much to me as his son,” said Fleming. “The sacrifices that he made, putting his own life on the line for his country and his beliefs, it doesn’t say they think too much of him if, in a year and a half later, they couldn’t have had this done and addressed.”

Fleming has contacted the Last Post Fund, which is responsible for Veterans Affairs’ burial and funeral program, but said he can never reach anyone to speak with.

On Wednesday, he called the office of Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney. Fleming was eventually transferred to voicemail.

“I never heard back from them up to (Thursday) evening, and I called them and told them, ‘I want this headstone removed in 48 hours out of here. If not, I’m removing it.’ It’s as simple as that.”

On Monday, he intends to bring the headstone to Veterans Affairs’ St. John’s office at the John Cabot Building on Barter’s Hill. The 48-hour timeframe is set to expire on Saturday, but Fleming said he would rather wait until the office is open following the weekend.

“I want that gone,” he said, angrily pointing to his father’s headstone. “That stone means nothing to me. Nothing to me no more. They can take their stone. They can make a keychain out of it if they like.”

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Veterans Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs, Newfoundland Field Regiment Royal Artillery Last Post Fund John Cabot Building on Barter

Geographic location: Europe, Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • John
    August 28, 2012 - 19:12

    My Dad was in the 166 and I was in the CF for 20 years and my advice to you is get off your ass and fix the problem yourself and you should feel better and maybe give up the bullshit and get on with your life as we all know except you there are no free hand outs but you have a headstone not a cross with a name grow up

  • John Garlick C.D.
    August 28, 2012 - 17:52

    The only graves that the government should be responsible for (IMHO) are the ones in our national and international grave sites for those lost in action around the world. Basically if a family cannot economically visit the grave site due to it being overseas the government should be happy to care for the grave in lieu of transporting the body back to Canada as is done now days.

  • MISC
    August 27, 2012 - 13:51

    The only dis-respectful person is the son who removed a headstone and disrupted his own fathers grave. One should be ashamed!

  • California Pete from NFLD
    August 27, 2012 - 12:11

    There is such a thing as to get a bunch of veterans to come out and help with your dilemma .It is caled help others when in need. Don't expect the goverment to do it for you.

  • susan
    August 27, 2012 - 08:00

    I am amazed that anyone believes that the VA is responsible for maintaining this headstone. The deceased members family should be proud to provide the care to his grave, and honor him as long as they are able.

  • tony
    August 26, 2012 - 22:02

    I myself am a Veteran. I am appalled that this man would expect VAC to continue paying what the Canadian Government has already paid for - a respectful decent funeral with a proper burial marker. It is now the family's responsibility to maintain the site. Had they done so properly it would not be in the condition it is in.

  • FredfromCBS
    August 26, 2012 - 21:02

    Why must SilleeNewfeez be so offensive? We could careless regarding the comments of such an obvious racist... Our tax dollars are wasted daily for MP's and bureaucrats to have lunches and suppers at restaurants... They should take brown bags like the rest of us. Furthermore, caring for living veterans is what tax dollars should do after veterans are buried, families should take care of family graves. I also disagree that David is carrying out what his parents would want.but I guess that's his decision too. I have served 31yrs so far and will get buried by the government, after that I won't care much but I hope my family will respect what I have done...

  • Fred from Brigus
    August 25, 2012 - 18:07

    David don't feel so bitter. The stone may mean nothing to you but it does to your dad all veterans stones mean a lot to me. If you cannot afford to do the repairs I will gladly pick up the tab. Just have Muirs contact me via The Telegram.

  • Melanie
    August 25, 2012 - 15:48

    Veterans Affairs paid for the headstone and possibly the funeral. I don't know. However, my father was in WWII and my family takes care of the maintenance of his grave. Yes, they paid for the grave- marker and our family graciously thanked them. Now my father's grave-sight is is a family responsibility. we didn't pay for much. With so many veterans having passed, why would someone expect that Veterans Affairs be responsible for every grave sight forever? How much has Veterans Affairs already done for this one veteran? Food for thought.....

  • PR
    August 25, 2012 - 14:54

    If it was my dad, I would do it myself. It's not worth the hassle to go through govt.

  • Austin Elliott
    August 25, 2012 - 13:06

    I visit my father's (also a veteran) grave every time I'm in the area and do what's necessary to keep it up. My father is buried there, not a connection to a military unit. Removing a headstone is like turning your back to your fathert's final resting place.

  • Ivan Tucker
    August 25, 2012 - 12:55

    David,my father spent seven years overseas,& returned,when he was thirty-four.He ad to build his life from that age on.To leave ou mother,who was thirteen years younger,a reasonable retirement fund to live on,he worked into his seventy-first year. When he passed in 1976,my mother was made responsible for his burial,because,it was deemed,her money,that was in the bank,constitued her being able to pay. Fair enough,but he wasn't compensated,along with so many others,for their sacrifice for us,& those who today make the decisions,for or against our war vets,& their final resting place. I had my fights with the beaurocacy,& got no where,but don't dishonor your father by removing his headstone.His legacy in life,as a vounteer in the second world war,is how proud of our fathers,even if others don't realize how wonderful their lives are,because of all the men & women,who sacificd,so much for us.For those who ddn't return,& died for the lifestyle we enjoy today. If money,is a problem,i would be the first to help by donating.Your father deserves to be forever reconized for his selfless sacrifice. Take care & God Bless.Please don't let the idiot beaurocrats deter what you-your father deserve.

  • silleenewfeez
    August 25, 2012 - 12:42

    Wait, so the government is responsible for rocks sinking into the earth now? My taxes have to pay for this? Sorry, I don't buy it.

  • Joseph McGrath
    August 25, 2012 - 12:37

    I have 3 family members who were in the CF and one died at an early age.He was given a first class burial,full military honors and the funeral was covered in accordace with their alloctments as was the headstone.If there was excess cost the family had to pay .Those are the rules as I understand them.It is now the family responsibility to look to see that the grave and headstone are looked after.I find it diffucult to believe that a headstone that was erected in about 1988 is still the responsibilty of CF or Veteran's affairs????The installation of headstones etc has changed since 1988 and no doubt the sleeve referred to make not have been required over 20 years ago.Anyway I mean no disrespect but I really think the family can look after this fix up.I see many headstones in my family needing cleanup and repair and letter cleaning etc because of mother nature and we do it or pay the small amount to get it done.Not a big deal !!!!!

  • sparky
    August 25, 2012 - 10:14

    David; I`ve never been through something like this but when dealing with a government office,if you don`t have a 'good friend' or a 'buddy' working there you`ll get Squat! from them, alot of those government offices have workers who are not sure: what their job is!

  • Joe
    August 25, 2012 - 08:55

    I guess the reasoning on the part of government is if they do nothing the family will bear the cost of repair. If it were me I would leave the headstone there and torment them to shame until they fix it. It must be frustrating though

  • Umm
    August 25, 2012 - 08:02

    I wonder how many others are like this, but you never hear about.

  • Paul
    August 25, 2012 - 08:01

    If it was my fathers headstone, I'd fix it no matter who I thought should be responsible. I am a veteran of 27 years service.