Organisation aims to honour veterans
Veterans Funerals UK, which aims to ensure affordable funeral care for former and serving personnel of the armed forces and Merchant Navy, is launching an online ‘garden of remembrance’.
Family and friends can create a memorial page to a loved one and include options such as ‘lighting’ a candle. Each page is to be represented by a poppy marker.
“It’s an ideal way for future generations to learn about their grandparents and great-grandparents and their service,” said Paul Burrows-Gibson, founder of the not-for-profit organisation.
Paul, a funeral celebrant, set up Veterans Funerals UK a year ago because he was disappointed by veterans' funerals that did little to highlight service history: “I saw a union flag that only fitted half the coffin, buglers who were out of tune, standard bearers who didn’t turn up,” he said. “There was a lack of attention to detail and I didn’t think it was good enough.”
The online memorials are the latest in a line of services the organisation has established.
“We've been working with service groups, including the Royal Navy, bereaved families, funeral service providers, repatriation services and funeral plan companies for the last year to provide a one-stop advice and information service and ensure quality funerals for veterans at affordable prices,” said Paul.
The website attracts up to 2,000 visits a week and around 25 people a day call the office.
Besides creating dedicated memorial pages, Veterans Funerals UK is also building a database of buglers, standard bearers and others who can offer ceremonial representation at funerals, as well as ministers and celebrants who specialise in services for veterans.
It has campaigned for state help with funeral costs and faster settlement of claims for Social Fund funeral payments, as well as lobbying authorities to consider releasing a lump sum from the Veterans’ Pension Fund to assist with funeral costs. It has also created a Veterans’ Fund as a ‘top-up’ resource, to help pay for the funerals of those who have served and have no family, or whose family is struggling financially.
“We hope this will gradually remove the need for requests in the media for donations to pay for a veteran’s funeral,” said Paul. “We believe that anyone who has served their country should have a dignified funeral.”
The organisation’s Veterans Funeral Package includes a service with ceremonial aspects that reflects the deceased’s service to their country, as well as a contribution to ex-service organisations. It costs £2,895, and is currently available exclusively from Veterans Funerals UK, although the aim is that it will become available via independent funeral directors. Paul wants a nominated recommended funeral director in each area.
The organisation has plans to expand and work towards creating a support service for veterans that will also look at wills and probate and legal issues.
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