“They were young men with their entire lives before them. They were husbands who said goodbye to their young brides and took their duty as their fate. They were fathers who would never meet their infant sons and daughters because they had a job to do. And with God as their witness, they were going to get it done.”
Pausing during his nearly half-hour address, President Donald J. Trump leaned over and hugged one of the World War II veterans near his side at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France. Private First Class Russell Pickett had been wounded in the first wave of soldiers that landed on Omaha Beach in the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944. As he received treatment at a hospital in England, Private Pickett made it clear that his service wasn’t finished.
“I’m going to return,” he said.
Six days after D-Day, Pickett rejoined his company. Two-thirds had been killed, including 19 from the small town of Bedford, Virginia, alone. Many of them were mortally wounded within 15 minutes of the invasion beginning. After he returned to battle, Private Pickett would be gravely wounded twice more. The third time, he lay unconscious for 12 days, seeming unlikely to survive.
“Today, believe it or not, he has returned once more to these shores to be with his comrades,” President Trump said, standing just yards from the coastline of Omaha Beach. “Private Pickett, you honor us all with your presence. Tough guy.”
June 6, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The storming of the beaches of Normandy changed the course of World War II, eventually leading the Allies to the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule. That anniversary morning, President Trump spoke to veterans alongside the cemetery where 9,388 of our American service members are buried.
One of the largest military operations in history, D-Day saw more than 150,000 Allied troops invade a 50-mile stretch of beach along the fortified coast of France. Just two months after taking those beaches, France was liberated from Nazi occupation. Total victory over the Nazis came just 11 months later.
The evening before the 75th commemoration ceremony at Normandy, President Trump read the same prayer that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered over the radio to Americans on the night of June 6, 1944.
“Almighty God, our sons, pride of our nation, this day, have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic our religion and our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity,” President Roosevelt said.
Joining President Trump at the D-Day National Ceremony of Remembrance on June 5 in Portsmouth, England, were leaders from 15 other countries-Germany, Canada, and France among them. Portsmouth was a vital staging site for the Allies across the English Channel from Normandy. More than 300 veterans attended the ceremony. So did Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
“The fate of the world depended on their success,” Queen Elizabeth said. “Many of them would never return and the heroism, courage and sacrifice of those who lost their lives will never be forgotten.”
The next day, President Trump visited Normandy, France, to honor the brave souls that gave their lives to advance the fight in the face of the impossible. He was joined by French President Emmanuel Macron.  The two leaders visited the Normandy American Cemetery, located near the point where many American troops landed.
“9,388 young Americans rest beneath the white crosses and Stars of David arrayed on these beautiful grounds,” President Trump said. “Each one has been adopted by a French family that thinks of him as their own. They come from all over France to look after our boys. They kneel. They cry. They pray. They place flowers. And they never forget.”
President Trump reminded Americans how extraordinary a sacrifice was made that day 75 years ago. “These men ran through the fires of hell moved by a force no weapon could destroy: the fierce patriotism of a free, proud, and sovereign people,” he said.
“The blood that they spilled, the tears that they shed, the lives that they gave, the sacrifice that they made, did not just win a battle. It did not just win a war. Those who fought here won a future for our nation. They won the survival of our civilization. And they showed us the way to love, cherish, and defend our way of life for many centuries to come.”