In 1908, war veteran Trooper Daly, mistaken as a drunk, was taken by police to the General Hospital in Montreal where he died two days later of malnutrition. With his service papers as his sole possession, Daly’s body was set to be donated to science. Horrified by this treatment of its underprivileged veterans, head orderly Arthur Hair rallied for a proper burial for Daly. In doing so, he launched the Last Post Fund in 1909. To date, the Last Post Fund has helped nearly 150,000 veterans receive dignified burials.
The Last Post Fund aims to provide eligible veterans with dignified funerals, burials, and assistance with military gravestones. However, assistance with burials is not the organizations only role. The Last Post Fund maintains their own cemetery, the National Field of Honour, and has a program to provide military markers to unmarked veteran graves. The Last Post Fund’s services are for eligible Canadians and Allied Veterans to be buried in Canada.
“Based on their financial needs, there’s a funeral and burial program for all former members of the Canadian Forces and it is also available to Allied Veterans who have been residents in Canada for ten years or more. It is definitely worthwhile for a family to call our one eight hundred number and speak to our counsellors and see if there’s any assistance available,” stated Jaime MacKinnon, Client Service Manager for the Last Post Fund.
The non-profit has evolved since its inception. Recently, the rate of reimbursement to families for funeral costs was doubled from $3,600. The program also now recognizes any former member of the Canadian Forces to be eligible. In the past only wartime veterans were eligible.
“That [reimbursement rate] was a drastic change and was well received especially by funeral directors and families,” said MacKinnon.
In order to receive assistance from the Last Post Fund, families can contact the organization. The veteran’s loved ones are then interviewed to determine eligibility. Families that are eligible, have up to one year after the veteran’s death to apply for a reimbursement.
“We have a quick interview with them. It usually takes ten to fifteen minutes and they speak to a Last Post Fund counsellor. And the counsellor will be able to gather service information and also financial information to determine if we may offer assistance. At that time we are able to give them an idea of whether we can offer them assistance,” explained MacKinnon.
To qualify, a married veteran’s assists must be equal or less than $12,015.
Once eligibility is determined, the final resting place of a veteran is left up to the discretion of the family.
“We do honor the family’s wishes. We do assist with burial in local Fields of Honour and we have a national Field of Honour in Quebec that the family can use but we respect that burial is a very private family matter. A lot of families chose to bury close to other family members and we respect that,” said MacKinnon.
The latest initiative of the organization is to raise awareness so more veterans can benefit from their services.
“It’s a very stressful time for a family, because we deal with funeral and burial. A lot of times families aren’t comfortable with speaking about funeral and burial until a death occurs and then it is difficult dealing with grief and it’s difficult to know where to go. So one of our initiatives is to raise awareness because we want to help as many families as possible,” said Mackinnon.
The Last Post Fund is supported by Veterans Affair Canada through the Veterans Affairs Canada Funeral and Burial Program. They also accept private donations.
The Last Post Fund accepts donations online at www.lastpostfund.ca. To determine whether a loved one is eligible for assistance you can call at the toll free number at 1-800-465-7113.
**This article was originally posting on our Holiday 2014 issue**