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World War II veteran, 100, weds 96-year-old bride near D-Day beach | The World Wars News

Together, the collective age of the bride and groom was almost 200 years. But American World War II veteran Harold Terens and his girlfriend Jeanne Swerlin proved that love lasts forever when they tied the knot near the D-Day beaches in Normandy, France.

Their respective ages (he is 100, she is a young woman of only 96) made their Saturday nuptials a nearly double-century celebration.

Terens called it “the best day of my life.”

On the way to the nuptials, the cheerful bride-to-be said: “It’s not just for the young, love, you know? We get butterflies. And we get some action too.”

The venue was Carentan’s elegant stone town hall, a key early D-Day target that saw fierce fighting after the Allied landings of June 6, 1944, that helped defeat Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Like other cities and towns on the Normandy coast, where nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed under fire on five code-named beaches, it is a bustling center of remembrance and celebration of the 80th anniversary of that day, adorned with flags and pennants and with veterans. celebrated like rock stars.

As Glenn Miller’s swing and other period tunes echoed through the streets, supporters (some in World War II clothing) were already lining up an hour before the wedding, behind the barriers outside City Hall, with a shout Enthusiast and drum band also available to serenade the happy couple.

After both declared “oui” to the vows read in English by the mayor of Carentan, the couple exchanged rings.

“With this ring, I marry you,” said Terens.

She laughed and gasped, “Really?”

Champagne glasses in hand, they waved through an open window to the adoring crowd outside.

“For everyone’s good health. And for peace in the world and the preservation of democracy around the world and the end of the war in Ukraine and Gaza,” Terens said as he and his girlfriend clinked glasses and drank.

The crowd shouted “la mariee!” – girlfriend! – to Swerlin, who was wearing a long, flowy dress in a vibrant pink. Terens looked dapper in a light blue suit with a matching pink handkerchief in her breast pocket.

Wedding party at the Elysée

And they enjoyed a very special wedding night party: They were invited to the state dinner at the Elysee Palace on Saturday night with President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden.

“Congratulations to the newlyweds,” Macron said, drawing cheers and a standing ovation from other guests during the toast praising Franco-American friendship. “(The city of) Carentan was happy to host your wedding, and we were happy to host your wedding dinner,” he told the couple.

The wedding was symbolic, not legally binding. Mayor Jean-Pierre Lhonneur’s office said he was not authorized to marry foreigners who are not residents of Carentan and that the couple had not requested legally binding vows. However, they could always complete those procedures in the US state of Florida if they wished.

Lhonneur likes to say that Normandy is practically the 51st state in the United States, given his reverence and gratitude for the Allied soldiers and the sacrifices of tens of thousands who never returned home from the Battle of Normandy.

“Love is eternal, yes, perhaps,” the mayor said, referring to the newlyweds, although his comments also aptly describe the feelings of many Normans toward the veterans.

“I hope for them the best happiness together.”

Dressed in a 1940s dress that belonged to her mother, Louise, and a red beret, Jane Ollier, 73, was among the spectators hoping to catch a glimpse of the lovebirds. The couple, both widowed, grew up in New York City: she in Brooklyn, he in the Bronx.

“It’s very moving to get married at that age,” Ollier said. “If it can bring them happiness in the last years of their lives, that’s fantastic.”

D-Day Memories

The World War II veteran first visited France as a 20-year-old U.S. Army Air Force corporal shortly after D-Day. Terens enlisted in 1942 and, after being sent to the United Kingdom , was assigned to a four-pilot P-47 Thunderbolt fighter unit as a radio repair technician.

On D-Day, Terens helped repair planes returning from France so they could rejoin the battle. He said that half of the pilots in his company died that day. Terens himself went to France 12 days later, helping transport newly captured Germans and newly freed American prisoners of war to England. Following the Nazi surrender in May 1945, Terens again helped transport freed Allied prisoners to the United Kingdom before shipping them back to the United States a month later.

Swerlin made it very clear that her new centenarian husband does not lack charm.

“He’s the best kisser ever, you know?” he declared proudly before they excitedly embraced each other before the television cameras.

“Okay! That’s all for now!” Terens said as he took a breath.

To which she quickly joked, “You mean there’ll be more later?”

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