France honors B.C. which is 100 years old. veteran with a Legion of Honor medal

Fernand Labrie is recognized for his contribution to liberating France during the Second World War

Fernand Labrie may be 100 years old, but his memories from the time around the Dieppe Raid in 1942 live as alive as ever.

He was 20 years old, a soldier in the Canadian Forces Régiment de Maisonneuve, aboard a ship carrying TNT, on alert to fight the Nazis on the coast of France during a critical World War Two operation.

"I'll be honest with you, I'm not afraid. I have a policy: live today, f-k tomorrow. That's our motto. I don't speak English, but that word I know," he says with a laugh.

Labrie's contribution to the liberation of France will be recognized on November 17, when he will be made a Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honor.

Memorial Day ceremony held at B.C. draw those whose families were touched by the war

The honor can be traced back to Napoleon Bonaparte, then Napoleon I, who created the award in 1802 to reward French citizens for their service, regardless of social or hereditary considerations.

The ceremony will take place in Labrie's hometown of Duncan, B.C., and will be officiated by the French Consul General in British Columbia, Nicolas Baudouin.

Baudouin said the recognition coincided with the 80th anniversary of the Dieppe Offensive, which was mostly fought by Canadian soldiers.

"It's very important to recognize those who came from far away, from Canada, to liberate my country during the Second World War, so we never forget those friends and allies," Baudouin said.

"They did something very brave, to join the army and fight for the values ​​we care about, which is liberty and freedom."

Born in Montmorency Falls, Que., Labrie enlisted when he was 18 and sent to England in 1940, not knowing a word of English.

The Régiment de Maisonneuve did not end with the fighting at Dieppe, although Labrie remained until the end of the Second World War, landing on France's Juno Beach soon after D-Day in 1944 and fighting his way through France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.

He re-enlisted after the war and later became a career soldier, even surviving a plane crash in 1949. He retired from the Canadian Armed Forces in 1973.

Pierrette Morgan's daughter said her father rarely spoke about his wartime experiences, but the Legion of Honor award had opened the door for some stories the family was hearing for the first time.

"We are happy for my father," he said. "He belittled the honor, but I think a lot of soldiers don't feel the importance of what they do. They don't feel special."

That remains true to this day, though Labrie will admit it humbled him a bit to accept a Legion of Honor medal.

"It seems pretty impressive. I never expected. I'm just one in a million, so why me?" he says.

Baudouin said his nation's efforts to honor veterans like Labrie meant a lot at this time in history.

“Unfortunately, due to Russian aggression, war has resumed in Europe. I think it's important for everyone to recognize the help we received [during the Second World War] and that the bonds made in difficult times remain strong," Baudouin said.

To date, France has awarded Canadian soldiers 1,154 medals, including 232 in BC. This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS. 

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