For Dominique Boulais, inspecting the graves of First and Second World War veterans is important because it ensures that their stories will not be forgotten.
“I feel there’s a purpose to it,” he said. “I feel it’s a way to make sure these men and women that ended up sacrificing their lives will be forever remembered.”
Boulais — who works with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Canadian Agency (CWGCCA) — spent 10 days in B.C. visiting 14 cemeteries to make sure that the names of First and Second World War veterans etched on 29 war graves were properly cleaned and maintained. In total, Boulais logged 2,517 kilometres driving through different communities.
Boulais’s first stop was in Prince Rupert on Sept. 5 where he inspected nine headstones at the Fairview Cemetery, two of which were from the First World War and seven from the Second World War.
“They were in alright shape, although a few were a little dirty,” he said. “I plan to ask the municipality to clean them.”
After his stop in Prince Rupert, Boulais visited the headstone of Edward Dix, the only person on Haida Gwaii known to have died during either World War One or World War Two.
The War Graves Commission was established in May 1917 at the end of the First World War with the purpose of ensuring that the graves of fallen soldiers would be maintained in perpetuity. This mission was continued at the end of the Second World War.
Boulais currently works out of the commission’s Ottawa office, which is responsible for the upkeep of 20,450 graves spread throughout North, Central and South America, the Caribbean and the Falklands. Of that number, 18,400 are located in Canada.
Boulais, whose father was a Second World War and Korean War veteran, has worked with the commission for the past 15 years. In addition to his personal connection to the military, he said he was drawn to the work by his love of history and the stories of the soldiers whose graves he helps maintain.
“For every war grave I go to there’s always a personal story. I don’t know all of them but some of them I do know,” he said. “And I feel you get closer to them and you do get to know their stories and I think that’s important.”