By Sgt. Daniel Cole, U.S. Army Europe Public AffairsJune 6, 2014
COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France (June 6, 2014) -- President Barack Obama and French President François Hollande spoke to more than 10,000 attendees at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial here June 6, 2014, commemorating the memory of the Soldiers who gave their lives 70 years ago fighting to end the Nazi reign over Europe.
The event was one of several commemorations of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day operations conducted by the Allies during World War II, June 6, 1944. Roughly 650 personnel from 20 U.S. military units, and six partner nations participated in many events across the Normandy region in tributes to the fallen and living veterans of World War II, at the invitation of the French government.
"Here we don't commemorate victory, as proud of the victory as we are," the U.S. Commander-in-Chief said in his address to the thousands in attendance. "We don't just honor sacrifice, as grateful as the world is. We come to remember why America and our allies gave so much for the survival of liberty in this maximum moment of peril. We come to tell the story of the men and women who did it so it remains seared into the memory of the future world."
During the ceremony, approximately 400 World War II veterans shared the stage with the heads of state, and faced the crowd while listening to the speeches, almost all reacting with standing applause and emotion, now sitting only miles from where they fought for their lives.
The spectators sat alongside the cemetery, which holds more than 9,300 white crosses and Stars of David, each marking the grave of a Soldier who paid the ultimate price on the 50-mile stretch of beach.
"Nations that once only knew the blinders of fear began to taste the blessings of freedom," Obama said. "None of that would have happened without the men who were willing to lay down their lives for people they never met and ideals they could not live without."
Behind the veterans on stage was a garden dedicated to the 1,500 Soldiers missing in action who have yet to return home.
The memorial states, "Here are recorded the names of Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country and who sleep in unknown graves. This is their memorial. The whole earth their sepulcher. Comrades in arms whose resting place is known only to God."
The audience stood silently and military veterans presented arms as a 21-gun salute was rendered and Taps was played as the ceremony was coming to an end.
"May God bless our veterans and all those who serve with them, including those who rest here in eternal peace, and may God bless all who serve today for the peace and security of the world," Obama said, as he ended his speech, receiving applause from the veterans behind him and the audience in front.
Following their remarks, both presidents walked together to the memorial's overlook, and laid a red, white and blue wreath in front of the memorial to commemorate the memory of the Soldiers still missing in action and the young men who never came home.
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