In preparation for Remembrance Day, veterans, serving members and dedicated community members gathered at the Notre-Dame Cemetery from October 14 to November 4 to pay tribute to Canada’s fallen service men and women. Equipped with spray bottles, brushes and some patience, volunteers were able to pay tribute to veterans through hard work and collaboration.
Recalling on the success of a similar event from last year at Beechwood Cemetery, the “Headstone Spruce Up” project was organized by the Military Family Resource Centre-National Capital Region (MFRC-NCR). Provided with the necessary cleaning materials, volunteers from across the NCR cleaned hundreds of headstones over the course of four Saturdays in order to clean away years of dirt and moss that were covering the stones and their inscriptions.
“The MFRC-NCR wanted to be part of the Remembrance Day services as a unique way to recognize veterans and their families… this event has brought together a whole community. Over the weeks, the number of volunteers has kept increasing as the opportunity we created is meaningful to many. Kneeling before those who stood for our rights and now lie in the cemetery is very powerful…The Veterans’ Headstone Spruce Up has exceeded our expectations by far. We hope to renew this initiative in the future,” says Karen Groutsche, Employment and Volunteer Services Coordinator for the MFRC-NCR.
This was not your typical ceremonial gathering; volunteers did their best to restore and preserve not only the headstones, but also the history lying beneath it. Many volunteers arrived with their young children in tow, making it both a family activity and learning experience. As one volunteer mentioned, “Events such as this are important, as it ensures that the sacrifices made by our members are respected and always remembered”.
“All the soldiers here gave their lives so that myself and all Canadians could have a safe country to live in…Too many people forget how lucky we are and coming here to clean these headstones sure made it clear to me how grateful I am for their service,” said one community volunteer.
Located at the intersection of St. Laurent Boulevard and Montreal Road, Notre-Dame Cemetery contains 1,200 military graves from numerous Canadians and foreign militaries; including, 42 war casualties from the First World War (1914-1918) and 73 from the Second World War (1939-1945).