Love lasts forever as WWII veteran, 100, returns to France to marry sweetheart

The Floridians travelled all the way to France to tie the knot (Picture: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty)

A World War Two veteran, 100, has returned to France to marry his 96-year-old bride as world leaders gathered to commemorate D-Day.

This week’s 80th anniversary was likely the last major commemoration where WWII veterans are present.

But one of them, Harold Terens, showed it’s never too late for love when he married his sweetheart Jeanne Swerlin, 96, near the Normandy beaches on Saturday.

The two Americans wed in the elegant stone-worked town hall of Carentan, northern France, which was one of Allied forces’ the first key locations to liberate.

As the swing of Glenn Miller and other period tunes rang out in Carentan, well-wishers already lined up a good hour before Terens’ and Swerlin’s wedding.

Once they had declared ‘oui’ to vows read by Carentan’s mayor in English, the couple exchanged rings.

‘With this ring, I thee wed’, Mr Terens said, to which Ms Swerlin gasped and giggled: ‘Really?’

Champagne flutes in hand, the newlyweds waved like royalty through an open window to the adoring crowds outside.

Toasting to the past, present and future as the world looks to Normandy for the 80th anniversary of D-Day (Picture: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty)

Those below yelled ‘la mariée!’ – the bride! – to Swerlin, who donned a long, flowing dress of vibrant pink.

Beside her, Terens looked dapped in a light blue suit with a pink handkerchief tucked in his breast pocket to mirror Swerlin’s dress.

As they clinked their glasses for a toast, Terens took the opportunity to cast attention to wars raging right now.

‘To everybody’s good health’, he said.

‘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.’

Just yesterday, 210 Palestinians were killed in a mission to rescue four Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas and taken to Gaza on October 7.

You couldn’t pick a more symbolic place for a WWII veteran to get married (Picture: Jeremias Gonzalez/AP)

The couple was invited to spend their wedding-night with French President Emmanuel Macron and the USA’s President Biden at a state dinner in the Élysée Palace.

Mr Terens called it ‘the best day of my life’.

Almost exactly to the day 80 years ago, troops parachuted in behind Nazi lines to capture Carentan and stop German reinforcements from defending the beaches.

More than 4,000 Allied soldiers died – and entire boatloads of men were lost – when they stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Like other towns and villages across Normandy, Carentan saw ferocious fighting as nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed on D-Day, starting the liberation of France and defeat of Adolf Hitler.

This week the region has been a hub of activity as world leaders – from US President Joe Biden to, briefly, Rishi Sunak – joined the last surviving veterans amid flag and bunting to commemorate the sacrifices made here.

Crowds of well-wishers gathered below (Picture: Jeremias Gonzalez/AP)

Although the wedding was purely symbolic, as Mayor Jean-Pierre Lhonneur did not have the power to wed non-resident foreigners, they can sort the legal formalities back home in Florida.

Lhonneur referred to Normandy as practically the 52st US state thanks to the reverence and gratitude it feels for the veterans, and the tens of thousands who never made it home.

Wearing a 1940s dress that belonged to her mother, Louise, and a red beret, Jane Ollier, 73, 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.’

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