100-year-old WWII veteran gets married near D-Day beaches

CARENTAN-LES-MARAIS, France (AP) — Together, the collective age of the bride and groom was nearly 200 years old. But World War II veteran Harold Terens and his sweetheart Jeanne Swerlin proved that love is eternal by tying the knot on Saturday on the landing beaches in Normandy, France.

Their respective ages – he is 100, she is only 96 – made their nuptials a celebration of almost two centuries.

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

On his way in the wedding, the bubbly bride-to-be said: “It’s not just for young people, my love, you know? We have butterflies. And we get a bit of action too.

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

Like other towns and villages on the Normandy coast where nearly 160,000 Allied soldiers landed under fire from five code-named beaches, it is an effervescent center of memory and 80th anniversary celebration of the deeds and sacrifices of young men and women that day, decorated with flags and banners and veterans fed like rockstars.

As Glenn Miller’s swing and other vintage tunes echoed through the streets, well-wishers – some wearing World War II-era clothing – were already lining up behind the barriers a good hour before the wedding. in front of the town hall, with lively bagpipes and a drum group also present to serenade the happy couple.

After having both declared “yes” to the wishes read by the mayor of Carentan in English, the spouses exchanged rings.

“With this ring I got married,” Terens said.

She laughed and gasped, “Really?”

Flutes of champagne in hand, they waved through an open window to the adoring crowd outside.

“To the good health of all. And to world peace and the preservation of democracy everywhere and the end of the war in Ukraine and Gaza,” Terens said as he and his wife clinked glasses and drank.

The crowd shouted “the bride!” ” -the bride! – to Swerlin, who wore a long, flowing dress in bright pink. Terens looked dapper in a light blue suit and a matching pink scarf in his breast pocket.

And they enjoyed a very special wedding night: they were invited to the state dinner at the Elysée on Saturday evening 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 French-American friendship. “(The town of) Carentan was happy to host your wedding, and we, your wedding dinner,” he told the couple.

The marriage was symbolic and not legally binding. Mayor Jean-Pierre Lhonor’s office said he was not authorized to marry foreigners who did not reside in Carentan and that the couple, both Americans, had not requested legally binding vows. However, they could still complete these formalities in Florida if they wished.

Honor likes to say that Normandy is practically the 51st state of the United States, given its respect and gratitude to Allied soldiers and the sacrifices of tens of thousands who never returned from the Battle of Normandy.

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

“I hope they have the best happiness together.”

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

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

The World War II veteran first visited France at the age of 20, when he was a corporal in the United States Air Force, shortly after D-Day. was enlisted in 1942 and, after shipping to Britain, was attached to a four-pilot P-47 Thunderbolt fighter unit as a radio repair technician.

On D-Day, Terens helps repair planes returning from France so that they can join the battle. He said half of his company’s pilots died that day. Terens himself traveled to France 12 days later, helping to transport freshly captured Germans and newly released American prisoners of war to England. After the Nazi surrender in May 1945, Terens again helped transport freed Allied prisoners to England before returning them to the United States a month later.

Swerlin made it clear that her new 100-year-old husband has no shortage of rizz.

“He’s the biggest kisser ever, you know?” she said proudly before they excitedly hugged the TV cameras.

“All right!” That’s all for the moment! » Terens said as he came up for air.

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


AP journalists Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale contributed to this report.


See more AP coverage of the 80th anniversary of D-Day at https://apnews.com/live/d-day-80th-anniversary-updates

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