Biden and Global Leaders Pay Homage to D-Day Veterans on 80th Anniversary”

Biden and Global Leaders Pay Homage to D-Day Veterans on 80th Anniversary”

President Joe Biden was visibly moved during an international ceremony in Colleville-sur-Mer on Thursday, marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Seated between First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, Biden used a white handkerchief to wipe his eyes as tributes were paid to the veterans whose bravery on the French beaches in 1944 marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

The poignant ceremony was filled with heartfelt tributes and honored the enduring legacy of these heroes.

The Ceremony and Its Participants

The commemorative event featured a children’s choir performing “Ode to Joy,” a military group singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and bagpipe performances. Poems were read, interpretive dancers performed, and parachutists landed on the beach, spelling out “idéal” and “courage” on signboards.

President Biden was joined by over 25 world leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prince William, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The emotional day culminated in a series of personal encounters between the leaders and the veterans.

Biden and Zelensky’s Encounters with Veterans

President Biden embraced President Zelensky, and the two are expected to meet separately during the Normandy visit. Zelensky’s presence was especially significant as he was warmly greeted by an American D-Day veteran who called him a hero.

This veteran, Melvin Hurwitz, 99, a former Air Force pilot, was moved to tears upon shaking hands with Zelensky. The two shared a poignant exchange, with Hurwitz declaring, “You’re the savior of the people,” to which Zelensky humbly responded, “No, no, no. You saved Europe.”

Their interaction highlighted the enduring bond of shared bravery across generations.

Biden’s Address and Reflection

President Biden delivered a speech at the American cemetery at Normandy, drawing parallels between the current geopolitical climate and the struggle against the Nazis 80 years ago.

He used the occasion to subtly criticize his political rival, former President Donald Trump, and to emphasize the ongoing threat to democracy.

“To surrender to bullies, to bow down to dictators, is simply unthinkable,” Biden said.

He stressed the importance of standing together against tyranny and defending democracy, warning that isolationism was not the answer 80 years ago and is not the answer today.

Honoring the Veterans

Biden turned to directly address the WWII veterans seated on stage behind him. Many of these veterans, now in their late 90s or even older, were wrapped in blankets to ward off the chill of the sunny but cool day.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the veterans “home” and presented 11 of them with the French Legion of Honor, France’s highest order of merit.

Macron’s tribute resonated deeply: “In the summer of 1944, you were barely 20, maybe even younger. You had a family, friends, a wife, dreams, plans, and a future.

And you left everything behind and risked everything for our independence and freedom. For that, thank you.”

Personal Interactions with Biden

In a lighter moment during the day’s solemn events, veteran Robert Gibson, 100, advised the 81-year-old president, “Don’t get old.” Another veteran inquired, “When do you sleep?” after hugging Biden.

The president gifted each veteran a special challenge coin to mark the occasion, featuring an image of troops approaching the Normandy beaches, B-17 aircraft, and the number 9388, representing the Americans buried in the cemetery.

The coin also included the quote, “They also serve who only stand and wait,” a line from Milton often cited by Biden to honor military families’ sacrifices.

A Historic Gathering

This year’s D-Day anniversary is expected to be one of the last major commemorations attended by the remaining D-Day veterans.

Of the 16.4 million Americans who served in WWII, less than 1% are alive today. Biden, born a year before the invasion, may be the last U.S. president to attend such an event.

The president and First Lady spent about 30 minutes with the veterans, saluting their service and sharing personal moments.

The American Cemetery at Normandy

Biden’s address took place at the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, where 9,388 American soldiers are buried.

The cemetery, established on June 8, 1944, sits above Omaha Beach and was quiet in the early morning hours before being filled with 10,000 attendees for the anniversary.

The graves, decorated with French and American flags, commemorate those who lost their lives on D-Day and include 1,557 names on the Walls of the Missing.

Among the graves are those of 307 unknown personnel, three Medal of Honor recipients, four women, and 45 sets of brothers.

Conclusion

The 80th anniversary of D-Day was a day of deep emotion and reflection. President Biden’s tribute, alongside global leaders and the remaining WWII veterans, highlighted the bravery and sacrifice of those who stormed the beaches of Normandy.

As Biden laid a wreath at the grave of a fallen soldier from his home state of Delaware, the ceremony underscored the enduring legacy of the D-Day heroes.

The commemorations served as a poignant reminder of the cost of freedom and the importance of standing together to defend democracy.