Amidst the identical, gray, concrete markers in the Burnsland Cemetery military Field of Honour lies one pure white marble stone. This marker stands out among the others in the field because it is an American Military marker in a Canadian Cemetery commemorating a Calgary man killed during the war in Vietnam.
Geoffrey John Lukey is one of 103 known Canadian casualties commemorated - as Canadians - on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC known as "The Wall". A little known fact of the history of that controversial war is that for every American citizen who followed their conscience and came to Canada to avoid service, one Canadian citizen followed their conscience, broke Canadian law, and enlisted in the American armed forces to serve in South East Asia.
Under the terms of the Canadian Foreign Enlistment Act, it was illegal for Canadian citizens to enlist in the armed forces of another country. Canadians who wished to serve in Vietnam had to give an American city as their birthplace in order enlist. As a result, at the end of the war, it was not know that a lot of the Canadian casualties were, in fact, Canadian and not American. Those Canadians killed in Vietnam are recognised as Canadians through the research efforts of American veterans of the Vietnam conflict.
LCPL Geoffrey John Lukey was killed in Thua Thien, South Vietnam on October 6, 1969 after serving only six months in his tour of duty. He was 20 years old. In 1969, the year I graduated from High School, I had no feelings or opinions about the Vietnam War one way or the other: it was the furthest thing from my mind. However, when I came across Lukey's grave it sent chills up my spine. I have probably learned more about the War, and the Canadian involvement in Vietnam, from researching Lukey than I have from any other source.
The Field of Honour in Burnsland cemetery is the final resting place for the Canadian veterans of five foreign wars: The Boer War, WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Click here to read reminiscences about Geoff Lukey from one of his comrades.
"Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
Mother earth will swallow you,
Lay your body down."