11/11/2013 03:35 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:56 EST

Thousands pack Victory Square for Remembrance Day ceremony

Vancouverites packed into Victory Square this morning to pay tribute to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians that have served and sacrificed their lives in the armed forces, past and present.

The Vancouver Bach Youth Choir sang hymns of remembrance as the crowds gathered around the iconic memorial that sits in the middle of the square.

It was an emotional ceremony and many veterans from across B.C. were in attendance.

John Ward Leighton served in the Canadian military for sixteen years, including two tours of Germany during the Second World War.

After leaving the service, Leighton says he vowed to never attend another military event again, but has changed in mind the years since—the draw of remembering old friends too strong.

“You get curious about what happened to guys, where they are,” he told CBC News.

“The friendships in the service were pretty intense, really.”

Rogers Jones was there to honour his grandfather, a black officer who was injured at the infamous battle of Vimy Ridge, an engagement that killed over 3,500 Canadians during World War I.

Three years ago, his grandfather was finally posthumously awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medallion for Outstanding Service during the war—nearly 93 years after the battle.

"It's really significant to me because they would not acknowledge the black officers and soldiers that fought in the wars. So acknowledgement of my grandfather is first time the Canadian government actually did that,” he says.

The ceremony was marked with two minutes of silence at 11:00 a.m. PT, during which the 15th Field Artillery Regiment fired off a 21-gun salute from nearby Portside Park followed by a RCAF flyover in honour of fallen soldiers.

Many of those gathered in Victory Square also took part in the parade which proceeded west along Hastings Street before looping back to the square.