CAF Story | The Science of Honouring the Fallen
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CAF Story | The Science of Honouring the Fallen


The best part of my job,
I would have to say is getting to meet
the family members and understanding what it means
not only to the soldiers that this person
who died typically a 100 years ago
has now been identified, but then being able
to meet the families and understand
what it means to them. My name is Dr. Sarah Lockyer. I’m the Casualty
Identification Coordinator and I work at the Directorate
of History and Heritage. So, I discovered
forensic anthropology while watching TV
when I was 16 years old and watching a true crime show
called Exhibit A. As a forensic anthropologist,
I analyze human skeletal remains so that we can create
a biological profile with the hopes of identifying
that individual. Helmet. So, when it comes to how
remains are discovered, it’s typically because
of construction or farm work
and things like that. And typically,
we’ll get the call from Commonwealth War Graves
Commission who have been able to determine that the individual
is likely Canadian. Typically, it’s because
there’s something that says “Canada” on it
that was found with the remains. And then, when I go overseas and I’m able to do
the analysis of the remains, I lay the remains out
in anatomical order, I take a skeletal inventory. So, I mark which bones are
present, which one are absent and then, I look at very
key parts of the skeleton to be able to, like I said, put together
a biological profile of that individual
to hopefully identify them. So, being able
to witness a burial and sort of the culmination
of an entire investigation, especially when we are able
to positively identify someone, it is incredibly rewarding and it’s quite a privilege
to be able to be there. Because as a forensic
anthropologist, the goal is always to return
an identity to an individual. Part of all of that of us
moving forward is trying to see if there are new tools
out there that can improve
how we do what we do. And one of the new tools
that we’ve recently put out is a registration form on our
website so that family members who have a relative
who went missing during the First
and Second World War can give us their
contact information. This will then allow us
to be able to have a direct point
of contacting the families and be able to hopefully
find DNA donors so that we don’t have
to resort to identifying certain sets
of remains as unknown, which is what we really
don’t want to do. As it relates
to the bigger picture, I really think that
my job helps with outreach for National Defence as well both military
and with the public. Of being able
to make a connection, make a human connection
to some of the military history. That’s both important
for Canada in general but as well for the military. And it allows people to connect on a much more fundamental
emotional level as opposed to just having
some facts about some historical battles. But you get a range
of different reactions, but it’s always
predominantly positive.

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