More than 52,000 military personnel, at 171 cemeteries across the country will be honoured this November thanks to the Alberta-based foundation No Stone Left Alone (NSLA).
“Our mission is to make sure no Canadian soldier’s headstone is left alone, by laying a poppy,” said Randall Purvis, Founder of NSLA and current board member.
Now in its seventh year, Purvis founded NSLA because of an annual tradition of the Purvis family that began after Purvis’ mother-in-law passed away.
“When she passed away she said don’t forget me on Armistice Day,” recalled Purvis.
So every Nov. 11, the Purvis family visited the Beechmount Cemetery in Edmonton and laid a poppy at her headstone.
One year, Purvis’ child asked a question that would lay the groundwork for NSLA.
“We were standing at the cenotaph and one of our children said: Why don’t all the soldiers have a poppy?” stated Purvis.
Purvis then started calling different organizations like Veterans Affairs Canada and the Minister of Education of Alberta. They all were on board with the idea.
The first year, NSLA laid 4,000 poppies with the help of junior high students from public, Catholic, and Jewish school boards in the area.
NSLA slowly began to attract attention.
“We knew we were doing something right when we put out a small press release and we got people from the Huffington Post, from Oromocto to Halifax to Victoria and all across the country [interested],” remembered Purvis.
The foundation has exponentially grown since then. Not only are poppies placed nationwide, but the NSLA also lays wreaths at the headstones of those laid in family cemeteries.
This year’s annual main event was successfully held on Nov. 6 at Beechmount Cemetery.
An important part of NSLA’s ceremonies is to get the youth of the community involved.
“When they get out of the classroom and put a poppy on a soldier’s headstone, that they don’t know, they have a different perspective and they’re often near serving soldiers, which is a really wonderfully by-product that we didn’t know. They sort of look at the soldier and say ‘oh my, goodness thank you for your service.’ and they look at the headstone and sort of say the same,” explained Purvis.
The impact NSLA is making on Canadian youth is evident through the thousands of Student Reflection Letters sent to the foundation.
“I’m not sure if we’re changing the perspective of everyone but we’re definitely changing the perspective of many children, and their letters show that,” noted Purvis.
Despite their impact and growing success, Purvis says that when it comes down to it, it’s really all about remembrance.
“We recognize our position and we recognize that we have a really organic growth and we’re extremely proud of that. But we also recognize that it’s Remembrance Week. I just encourage everyone to wear a poppy on and around Nov 11. It’s really important we take two minutes of silence to recognize the freedoms and the gifts we have in Canada and support our Canadian Armed Forces and understand a little bit what they do,’ said Purvis.
To locate a No Stone Left Alone ceremony in your area or to donate to the foundation visit their website .