Veteran, 100, marries 96-year-old sweetheart near Normandy’s D-Day beaches

8 June 2024, 14:04

A 100-year-old veteran and his bride, aged 96
D-Day 80th Anniversary Wedding. Picture: PA

The ceremony took place in the town of Carentan.

Second World War veteran Harold Terens and his sweetheart Jeanne Swerlin have proved that love is eternal as they tied the knot close to the D-Day beaches in Normandy, France.

The Americans’ respective ages – he is 100, she is just 96 – made their nuptials an almost double-century celebration.

The location was the elegant stone-worked town hall of Carentan, a key initial D-Day objective that saw ferocious fighting after the Allied landings on June 6 1944 that helped rid Europe of Adolf Hitler’s tyranny.

The happy couple in each other's arms
Mr Terens and Ms Swerlin were cheered on by crowds of wellwishers (AP)

Like other towns and villages across the Normandy coast where nearly 160,000 Allied troops came ashore under fire on five code-named beaches, it is an effervescent hub of remembrance and celebration on the 80th anniversary for the deeds and sacrifices of young men and women that day, festooned with flags and bunting and with veterans feted like rock stars.

As the swing of Glenn Miller and other period tunes rang out on the streets, well-wishers were already lined up a good hour before the wedding, behind barriers outside the town hall.

After both declaring “oui” to vows read by Carentan’s mayor in English, the couple exchanged rings.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” Mr Terens said.

Ms Swerlin giggled and gasped: “Really?”

The couple kiss
A kiss for the bride (AP)

With Champagne flutes in hand, they waved through an open window to the adoring crowds outside.

“To everybody’s good health. And to peace in the world and the preservation of democracy all over the world and the end of the war in Ukraine and Gaza,” Mr Terens said as he and his new bride then clinked glasses and drank.

The crowd yelled “la mariee!” – the bride! — to Ms Swerlin, who wore a long flowing dress of vibrant pink. Mr Terens looked dapper in a light blue suit and matching pink kerchief in his breast pocket.

The couple are expected to get a very special wedding-night party: They’ve been invited to the state dinner at the Elysee Palace on Saturday night with President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden, the mayor said.

The couple take the applause of the crowd
Crowds cheered the couple at the old town hall (AP)

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

The wedding was symbolic, not binding in law. Mayor Jean-Pierre Lhonneur’s office said he was not empowered to wed foreigners who weren’t residents of Carentan, and that the couple, who are both American, had not requested legally binding vows.

However, they could always complete those formalities back in Florida if they wish.

The couple smile for the camera
The event took place in the week the 80th anniversary of D-Day was commemorated (AP)

Mr Lhonneur likes to say that Normandy is practically a 51st state of the USA, given its reverence and gratitude for veterans and the sacrifices of the tens of thousands of Allied soldiers who never made it home from the Battle of Normandy.

Wearing a 1940s dress that belonged to her mother, Louise, and a red beret, 73-year-old Jane Ollier was among the early-bird spectators who waited for a glimpse of the happy couple.

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

By Press Association

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