Mike Bieling is intent on making his research project to acknowledge the resting places of veterans as thorough as possible.
Bieling has invested 18 years in the Cowichan Valley Lest We Forget Where They Lie Project.
“It’s going to be another 18 before I’m finished,” he quipped after cross placements were conducted as part of the exercise for 2021 at the Westholme Cemetery Sunday.
Bieling said it’s a good thing he’s retired now so he can devote himself fully to realizing his goals for the project.
“It’s a matter of talking to family members,” he added.
The appreciation expressed to Bieling for what he’s doing is abundantly clear from everyone he talks to and every time placements are done at gravesites.
“I had no idea how much it would mean to family members and other members of the community,” he indicated.
This year’s veterans’ Remembrance cross placements in Cowichan Valley cemeteries have gone ahead in a more traditional fashion than 2020, like so many other facets of life, but with participants still mindful of the need for caution during the fourth wave of COVID-19.
Since the early 1950s, volunteers from different organizations have been placing small white crosses, decorated with a cedar sprig and a lapel-style poppy, on the graves of veterans in local cemeteries during the weeks before Remembrance Day. In recent years, the leading role in the biggest cross placements at Mountain View and St. Mary’s Somenos cemeteries shifted from Royal Canadian Legion Branch 53 to the members of the 744 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, assisted by the 100 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Admiral Mainguy, the 2924 Khowutzun Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps and the local St. John Ambulance Youth Brigade.
Their presence was sadly missed last year when cadets weren’t allowed to participate due to the pandemic. Volunteers from the community stepped up on short notice to ensure continued support for the tradition so the crosses could still be placed.
Local officers didn’t learn of the decision that military cadets could participate in such events again with permission from their headquarters until it was too late to make arrangements before this year’s first cross placements at Mountain View Cemetery and St. Mary’s, Somenos, Anglican Churchyard on Sunday, Oct. 24.
A cadet presence returned at Westholme’s All Saints’ Anglican Churchyard. Members of the 100 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Admiral Mainguy joined cemetery volunteers in honouring their namesake, Vice-Admiral E. Rollo Mainguy, and 47 other veterans interred there.
St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Cemetery (Chemainus Cemetery) is also included among the valley burial places where volunteers independently place remembrance crosses as well as St. Peter’s Anglican Churchyard in Duncan and St. John the Baptist Anglican Churchyard in Cobble Hill.
Everyone is encouraged to visit any of the community’s cemeteries to see the crosses in place between Remembrance Day and late November.