SAINTE-MARIE-DU-MONT, France -- "Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force: You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."
On June 6, 1944, more than 156,000 troops received Eisenhower's order, marking the beginning of the largest multi-national amphibious landing and operational military airdrop in history. And 74 years later, the eyes of the world still look upon them -- as U.S. servicemembers, World War II veterans, NATO allies and partners participated in events and ceremonies throughout the Normandy region of France to honor the bravery, heroism, selfless service and sacrifices of the Greatest Generation.
This year marks the 74th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 -- most commonly known as D-Day. An epic multinational amphibious and airborne operation, D-Day forged partnerships and reinforced transatlantic bonds that remain strong today. Overall, U.S. servicemembers from 20 units in Europe and the U.S. commemorated D-Day 74 May 30-June 7 in almost 40 locations throughout Normandy as part of Joint Task Force Normandy 74.
Events such as the Carentan Battlefield Tour; wreath-laying ceremonies at the Airborne Monument, General Eisenhower Monument, Point du Hoc Monument and Iron Mike Monument; and the addition of the 101st Airborne Division's football 'game that never happened' took place throughout the commemorative week.
On the 74th anniversary of D-Day, a wreath-laying ceremony was held at the Utah Beach Federal Monument here on June 6. Among the key speakers were U.S. Ambassador to France, Jaime McCourt, and D-Day Veteran, Steve Melnikof.
Melnikof, 98, briefly recounted an event from the day his unit, 29th Infantry Division, stormed Omaha Beach.
"That day alongside us were the French, English, Canadians and the British," Melnikof said. "We had an assignment to get over this high bluff and we did. We lost a lot of infantrymen that day…but we will remember them all as combat infantrymen."
Speaking in French, McCourt lauded the bravery, heroism, selfless service and sacrifice that Melnikof and other D-Day veterans gave for the freedoms enjoyed today.
"The acts of the Allies on Utah Beach and the other beaches that morning in June were far more than heroic…they were the defining moment of a whole generation," she said. "They changed the course of world history."
Switching to English, McCourt then addressed the WWII Veterans in the audience.
"Proclamations are easily made," she said. "Turning words into reality requires the effort and sacrifice of the truly great men and women like you. Thank you for being there then and thank you for being here."
Stories of bravery, heroism, selfless service and sacrifice will continue to be passed on from generation to generation as a way of honoring the past to secure the future.
"Ceremonies such as this are more than just commemorations," the ambassador said. "They are the spirit of our story, which we pass on to the new generation. It is our children and the children of our children who will take responsibility for maintaining and consolidating this world of peace and freedom for tomorrow, as well as the bonds of friendship between our two nations."
Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.