For Doug Pichette, like many other veterans, this time of year can be an emotional one.
“I think about the people I served with, people I lost. Friends I lost, good friends. I think of my wife at home with the kids while I was away,” said Pichette, 82, who became emotional as he gave out poppies Saturday at the Penticton IGA store and talked with anyone who stopped for a moment. “The day has been very good. People are very friendly and they are very supportive. A lot of people say thanks for your service. I appreciate the interest from the public.”
One of the things he is often asked about is the ribbons he wears and Pichette is always happy to explain.
His medals include two stints of volunteer service with the United Nations peacekeeping force, a 12-year-service medal and an aboriginal volunteer service award as per his Metís heritage.
One distinguished award he doesn’t wear and keeps tucked away safely at home is a gold medal he received as part of a Canadian team competing in a shooting competition in Egypt in 1962.
It was the first and only time Canadians had won the event and were up against teams from Brazil, Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic and others.
“We were all apprehensive,” he recalled. “We knew that we had the ability to do it, but we didn’t know if we could carry through in the end. To say the least, we were happy as the Chicago Cubs when we won that medal. It was a fabulous feeling. We took a lot of pride in what we did.
“Special? Absolutely, there’s 14 gold medals in the world and I have one of them for Canadians.”
A weapons technician, the Penticton veteran served with the Canadian military from 1952 to 1972 starting out with the air force at CFB Comox and joining the army’s Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers three years later in Nanaimo.
His peacekeeping missions included one in Egypt and another in Cyprus. One of his fondest memories of the Middle East was visiting the holy land.
He and his family will be joining many others this Friday in celebration of Remembrance Day to pay tribute to those who made the greatest sacrifice.
For the second year in a row there will be two ceremonies in Penticton — one indoors and one at the cenotaph in Veterans Memorial Park beside the courthouse.
The park cenotaph was funded by the Great War Veterans’ Association as a First World War memorial in 1920, to which plaques were added to later honouring the veterans of the Second World War.
Services get underway with a parade march from the curling club to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre starting at 10 a.m. Indoor services begin at 10:30 a.m. and should finish at approximately 11:30 a.m.
The additional outside service will take place at 10:45 a.m. at the cenotaph in Veterans Memorial Park and finishing by 11:15 a.m. After the service organizers encourage attendees to meet a Veteran.
-With files from Emanuel Sequeira