Former cadet leader remembers Inuvik men who served their country

Every year, Chris Garven goes to the Inuvik cemetery and lays poppies on the graves of men who served in the military.

Chris Garven lays poppies on graves of those who served in military, RCMP

The cenotaph at the cemetery in Inuvik, N.W.T., honours Canada's war dead and veterans of the Second World War. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Every year, Chris Garven goes to the Inuvik cemetery and visits the graves of men who served in the military.

Garven, the former commanding officer of the Army Cadet unit in Inuvik, honours each of those graves every Remembrance Day with his own personal tribute.

"I just came up with the idea that I'm going to put a poppy on the graves of the various people who have served in the Canadian Forces or allied forces," he says.

As a member of the Inuvik branch of the Royal Canadian Legion whose father served in the Second World War, Garven says this is the least he can do.

"It's a quiet, emotional and reflective time. It only takes a few minutes, but it says thanks."

The tradition started about 15 years ago, when he first laid a poppy on the stone marking the grave of his good friend George "Buck" McLeod, who died in 1999.

"The poppy, it's just a symbol. It says 'I remember the veterans, I remember the sacrifices they made,'" said Garven.

Garven also places a poppy on the graves of Ron Wainman, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces, and Jack Heath, who was in the Merchant Navy.

Art Carriere served in the Korean War and sustained injuries, but according to Garven, it wasn't something he talked about.

"Very, very few people knew about it. Very few people knew he served in the Korean War. He was just a guy."

He also honours Frank Burke, whose military records Garven says were burned in a fire.

This year, he will be bringing a sixth poppy with him to the cemetery. Otto Binder died at the age of 93 earlier this year. He was a reindeer herder, and an RCMP special constable. The RCMP is considered paramilitary.

"Although we say now, 'the veterans are dying off, there's less and less of them,' in reality, there really aren't, because in reality anyone who served in the Canadian Forces is a veteran," says Garven.

Garven will bring six poppies with him tomorrow and will head out to the gravestones after the town's Remembrance Day ceremony.