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Vet remembers war experience at D-Day 80th anniversary ceremony in Nanaimo

Tony Pearson remembers Belgian war experience at ceremony at Mount Benson branch
Tony Pearson, a war veteran, speaks at a D-Day memorial service in Nanaimo on Saturday, June 8.

Despite the passage of 80 years, a veteran recounted his war experience at a D-Day memorial service in Nanaimo this weekend.

Royal Canadian Legion Mount Benson Branch 256 was the site of a ceremony commemorating the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, where the Allied forces, of which Canada was part, stormed Normandy in an effort to liberate France and Western Europe on June 6, 1944.

Tony Pearson, 99 and a retired chief warrant officer, was deployed to Europe and saw action subsequent to the Normandy operation. Among the places he was stationed, Belgium in October of 1944. He remembers hearing the big guns of the artillery the Germans were firing.

"We had to be very careful because there were mines and booby traps, so they have all sorts of configurations to fool you ... They would take the front step up and put a mine under there .... and the water was coming up daily," Pearson said to the crowd. "Apparently the British had bombed some of the dikes, and the water was coming in from the sea. so eventually, there was water everywhere." 

The experience is something Pearson will never forget and the service of he and his fellow soldiers is still remembered, not only in Canada, but across the globe.

Ignace Benteyne, a man from Belgium, was present at the ceremony and said while Normandy is over 400 kilometres away, people in his country are grateful for the efforts and remember June, 6, 1944. In addition, Benteyne, who is in construction, said he helps to restore gravestones of Canadian soldiers and memorials.

"One of my important clients is The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, so I do a lot of work on the on the headstones, walls and the foundation work because all these monuments are 100 years old, the First World War," said Benteyne. "I am living in Ypres, there are about 185 cemeteries and monuments in this area, so for us, it's very important to commemorate this and to be respectful for the things all the Allied soldiers has done for us.

Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

I joined Black Press in 2010 and cover education, court and RDN. I am a Ma Murray and CCNA award winner.
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