08/29/2012 07:21 EDT | Updated 10/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Man digs up father's gravestone, plans to return war medals

A man dug up his father's headstone and brought it to a Veterans Affairs Canada office, more than two decades after he was buried in St. John's, because the department failed to look after the gravesite —and now he plans to return the Second World War veteran's medals.

"They dishonoured him. They disrespected him. They hurt me, they've hurt my family," said David Fleming.

Gerald Fleming was a Second World War veteran who died in 1988. He was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Mount Pearl. Veterans Affairs paid for his headstone, but Fleming said the department failed to take care of it.

Fleming said he had asked Veterans Affairs more than a year and a half ago to repair the grave marker, which had been sinking into the ground.

This week, Fleming, with the help of family members, dug up the gravestone and brought it to the government office.

Government has apologized

Officials with Veterans Affairs have apologized to Fleming and have promised to repair the gravesite.

But Fleming said he no longer wants their help, and added his family will replace the headstone itself.

Fleming, who had a stroke in 2011, said he's also planning a trip to Ottawa, where he will give his father's war medals back to government officials.

Fleming said he hopes his actions will spur the department to ensure the gravesites of other veterans are maintained properly.