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.”