President Donald Trump praised veterans who were in Europe on D-Day, telling them: “You are among the very greatest Americans who will ever live.”
Trump was at the Normandy American Cemetery in France on June 6 for a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings; the largest joint naval, air and land assault ever undertaken, which helped free Europe from Nazi rule.
The ceremony kicked off with a video presentation featuring several D-Day veterans recounting their experiences on June 6, 1944.
The crowd gave a standing ovation afterward as videographers panned the stage to show the dozens of veterans who made the trek to be here today. Many arrived in wheelchairs, with decorated medals and caps denoting their veteran status.
As President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Brigitte Macron, the first lady of France, made their way down a red carpet to the event, they greeted a number of veterans. One of the American veterans told Trump he has a lot of supporters in Pennsylvania.
“There’s a lot of people back in Pennsylvania who want to vote for you,” the man said.
Others shouted, “We love you” and “God Bless you, President Trump.”
Retired Maj. Gen. William Matz Jr., secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, spoke at the event, recognizing the 160 World War II veterans on stage, saying they “need no reminder of the horrors of war and who remember well their comrades who never came home.”
“Seventy-five years ago this very morning and yards, simply yards from where you are sitting, a generation of American men (joined by their brothers-in-arms) did the unthinkable,” Matz said.
Macron took the stage next, thanking American soldiers for their sacrifice.
“Their days of youth seem too far behind. Far from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, or New Jersey … Far from their school years when they were learning a trade,” Macron said.
“They freed a land with no other compass than a cause which was greater than themselves—the cause of liberty today. France has not forgotten. France has not forgotten those fighters to whom we owe the right to live in freedom. France has not forgotten the 2,000,000 soldiers who went for weeks to free the villages of Normandy and would go through the hell of combat of the countryside … I bow down before their bravery.”
Trump spoke next, thanking Macron and recognizing the 60 American veterans on the stage.
“You are the pride of our nation, you are the glory of the republic, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” POTUS said, as the crowd stood to applaud.
American soldiers “came from the farms of a vast heartland, the streets of glowing cities and the forges of mighty industrial towns. Before the war, many had never ventured beyond their own community. Now, they had come to offer their lives halfway across the world,” he said, after recognizing Polish, Norwegian, Australian, and French fighters.
The president described the 130,000 service members who fought as the “citizens of free and independent nations, united by their duty to their compatriots and to millions yet unborn.”
Macron, Trump, and their wives departed the ceremony around 12:45 p.m., viewing a map of the D-Day invasion before watching a series of flyovers.
Among those traveling with Trump on Thursday were White House advisor Kellyanne Conway, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson. A number of American lawmakers were also in the crowd, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senators Jammes Lankford (R-Ok.) and John Barrasso (R-Wy.).
Trump’s schedule on Thursday included a bilateral meeting with Macron. He and the first lady were due to fly back to his golf course in Doonbeg, Ireland, by the end of the day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.