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WWI memorial gathering

Veterans, local dignitaries, RCMP officers, firefighters and family members of those who fought in a long ago war, attended a special WWI ceremony in Penticton, on Thursday.

The memorial gathering at Veterans' Memorial Park was to recognize the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI in August 1914.

"This is a ceremony where we acknowledge what had been done for us, so we can experience the freedoms we have today and never forget," said Padre John Briscall with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 40.

Briscall, who presided over the ceremony, welcomed everyone and thanked them for stopping to remember the outbreak of WWI.

Statistics he provided included that around 60,000 Canadians lost their lives in the war, 620,000 enlisted and 420,000 went overseas.

Those forces faced unexpectedly harsh conditions, they were the first to face poisonous chlorine gas at Ypres, he said, and as you know, they won a major victory at Vimy Ridge on April 12, 1917, gaining our Canadian Forces international recognition.

He further quoted from a speech given by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the National War Museum last Sunday and asked if there were any veterans or families of veterans in attendance.

The moving ceremony also included prayers, the "Last Post" by Cpl. Bryce Petersen, "Piper's Lament" by piper Geordie Young, the Act of Remembrance by Comrade Ron Bannister and the laying of the wreath.

Paul Gillis, with the Penticton Naval Veterans Association, said he was there to remember his father, Hurley Gillis, a WWI veteran and others who fought.

His father, he recalled, was gassed in France, and when he came back to Canada his lungs were pretty much shot.

"They called it TB back then, and he had to fight with Ottawa to get the help he needed," he said. "And as I was growing up I didn't know him that well because he was hospitalized in St. John, New Brunswick. He died in 1942, because of the gassing during the war, so I want to be here today in his memory.

Catherine and Alain Berthelot from Larre, Normandy, were at the ceremony to share stories of WWII.

According to Catherine, they have spent time in Canada because crew members of a plane that crashed in Larre in 1944 had connections to the country.

Catherine said she planned to take poppies used at the ceremony back to Normandy to place on graves there.

Colene Patterson, with the Royal Canadian Air Force Association, was remembering her grandfather, who was in the army in WWI.

"He was in the thick of the fighting, and emotionally he wasn't great when he came home, but he carried on," she said. "I'm here today because I'm very proud of the men and women who did serve. They gave us a lot of freedom."

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