100-year-old WWII veteran marries fiancee days after D-Day honour

The happy couple...  Harold Terens and his sweetheart Jeanne Swerlin
The happy couple... Harold Terens and his sweetheart Jeanne Swerlin - LOIC VENANCE/AFP

Together, the collective age of the bride and groom was nearly 200.

But World War II veteran Harold Terens and his sweetheart Jeanne Swerlin proved that love is eternal as they tied the knot on Saturday inland of the D-Day beaches in Normandy, France.

Their respective ages — he is 100 while she is 96 — made their nuptials an almost double-century celebration.

Mr Terens called it ″the best day of my life.″

On her way into the nuptials, Jeanne Swerlin said: “It’s not just for young people, love, you know? We get butterflies. And we get a little action, also.″

The wedding came just days after Mr Ternes was honoured on the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings that took place a few kilometres away.

Parade of veterans

After the ceremony, “depending on his possible fatigue”, Mr Terens said he may join in a parade of veterans in the centre of Carentan during the afternoon.

The couple were also invited to the state dinner at the Elysee Palace on Saturday night with President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden, the Carentan mayor,  Jean-Pierre Lhonneur said.

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

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’s an effervescent hub of remembrance and celebration on the 80th anniversary of the deeds and sacrifices of young men and women that day, festooned with flags and bunting and with veterans feted like rockstars.

Glenn Miller

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

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

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 mariée!” – 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.

1940’s dress

The wedding was symbolic, not binding in law. Mayor Lhonneur’s office said he was not permitted to wed foreigners who were not residents of Carentan, and that the couple, who are both American, hadn’t requested legally binding vows. However, they could always complete those formalities back in Florida if they wished.

Mr Lhonneur likes to say that Normandy is practically the 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.

Dressed in 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 newlyweds.

“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.”