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    Normandy Honors U.S. Veterans on 80th Anniversary of D-Day

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    As the gentle winds of the English Channel sweep across the sands of Normandy, echoes of history and gratitude fill the air in the coastal town of Houlgate.

    Once a strategic point in Nazi Germany’s Atlantic Wall, Houlgate now stands as a symbol of remembrance as the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings approaches.

    In a heartfelt display of appreciation, nearly 70 U.S. veterans received a heroes’ welcome in Normandy, particularly in Houlgate and Carentan-les-Marais.

    These veterans, some over a century old, have traversed the ocean once again, not as young soldiers storming beaches under fire, but as honored guests returning to where their valor made history.

    “You are at home here,” said Bertrand Deniaud, a local education official, as he greeted the veterans who had arrived on a special tour organized by American Airlines.

    This sentiment was palpable as students, dressed in vintage attire reminiscent of the 1940s, and officials formed a cheering gauntlet for the veterans as they alighted from buses for a luncheon amid the fluttering flags of France and the United States.

    Among the throng was 98-year-old Frank Kohnke, who parachuted into Normandy with the 101st Airborne Division, his young self’s bravery marked by thrice being wounded in battle. Despite the years, Kohnke and others expressed how deeply they were moved by the ceremony.

    In a symbolic nod to those fateful days, 70 parachutists, including veterans and civilians, donned WWII-era paratrooper uniforms and leapt from vintage C-47s over the town of Carentan-les-Marais.

    This jump, an homage to the original soldiers’ descent into darkness and uncertainty, was a part of a week of commemorative events that hark back to the spirit of D-Day.

    While the skies were alive with the spectacle of commemoration, the ground below blossomed with reenactments, as people attired as WWII servicemen, complete with period cars and equipment, documented the event on modern devices, symbolizing the bridge between eras.

    This fusion of past and present, where UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters shared the skies with vintage aircraft, served as a poignant reminder of the continuum of military service and sacrifice.

    Notably, U.S. President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, among others, are scheduled to partake in the ceremonies, underscoring the enduring bonds forged in the crucible of war.

    The current conflict in Ukraine lends a somber context to the remembrance, as history’s lessons are called upon once more.

    With an estimated 4,500 guests in attendance, including about 200 veterans from the U.S., U.K., France, and Canada, the 80th anniversary ceremonies serve as a tribute to the dwindling number of living veterans who participated in D-Day.

    They are a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who fought, a memorial to their fallen comrades, and a call to successive generations to remember the cost of freedom.

    Relevant articles:
    Normandy town liberated by the Allies welcomes US veterans before D-Day anniversary, Stripes, 06/04/2024
    Veterans, civilians parachute over Normandy for D-Day 80th anniversary, Task & Purpose, 06/02/2024
    US veterans get heroes’ welcome in France ahead of D-Day anniversary, Yahoo News Australia, 06/02/2024
    D-Day: 80th anniversary ceremonies kick off with parachute jump over Normandy, WGAU, 06/02/2024

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