Beyond the Front

Inspired by their family’s history, a couple starts a fund to help veterans and their families

We all know that our comfortable lives come from the sacrifice made by other people. Some of us are even lucky enough to know those who take and make the ultimate risk and sacrifice, and we’re all grateful for their service. But the biggest and most direct threats to our collective lives occurred before most of us were born, and over time, the magnitude of loss becomes tougher to remember.

One family that will always remember are the Stewarts — Andrew and Christine, and their two children, a 14-year-old daughter and their 19-year-old son. From the Medical Corps to the Royal Marines and Air Force, to the British and Canadian Armed Forces, many of their relatives have served at home and abroad going back three generations.

So when they started their family fund with Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF), they wanted to support Canadian Armed Forces families by providing funds for the mental and physical rehab of veterans who completed their service, and for the families including subsequent generations of those who have served and those who have died.

“My grandfather was gassed in World War One,” Andrew says. “He survived initially, but died from complications when my dad was seven. So he never really had a dad, and I never had him as a
grandfather.” The fund also engages the next generation through the No Stone Left Alone Memorial Foundation, which educates youth about the sacrifices made by veterans and places poppies
on fallen soldiers’ headstones every November.

The fund also has other clauses unrelated to the military which include supporting children in discovering and developing their promise along with providing care and shelter to the homeless. Funds also go towards helping domestic animals as well as the prevention and diagnosis of various chronic health conditions.

But the military is close to the family’s heart, and an important part of the fund. This summer, the family went to France to honour the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. On a cold and rainy day, walking along overgrown trenches to the monument and past the headstones engraved with names of the known and unknown soldiers, the youngest Stewarts saw endless rows of gravestones on the battlefield and received a lesson they can’t learn in school.

“We were there in the middle of setting up the fund so it was a timely experience for our children,” Andrew says. “It was moving to realize that many of these soldiers were the same age as our son.”

Thanks to the bravery of their elders and people just like them, the Stewarts get to live the lives their family fought for, including a visit to an overseas memorial that honours their efforts — a tangible connection that ensures they’ll never forget. They hope their fund plays a part in making sure we don’t, either.