D-Day Anniversary Honored By President Obama In Normandy, France

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After visits to Eastern and Central Europe, President Barack Obama honored the 70th anniversary of D-Day Friday morning at a memorial service in Normandy, France. The president, along with world leaders from France, England and Russia, paid tribute to the fallen soldiers at Omaha Beach, the infamous site of the lengthy World War II assault that killed several thousand Allied troops and changed the course of the war. Veterans from the war also gathered at the American Cemetery and Memorial, located just above the beach, to commemorate the Normandy invasion and meet with the president.

In his address, Obama spoke of heroism and America's commitment to freedom.

What more powerful manifestation of America’s commitment to human freedom than the sight of wave after wave after wave of young men boarding those boats to liberate people they had never met? We say it now as if it couldn’t be any other way. But in the annals of history, the world had never seen anything like it.

The president avoided mentioning recent controversies in his speech, such as the resignation of Secretary of Veteran Affairs Eric Shinseki or the swap of Taliban leaders for an American prisoner of war. However, Obama did find links between the U.S. troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy 70 years ago and the ones who recently returned from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This generation, this 9/11 generation of service members, they, too, felt something tug,” the president said. “They too chose to serve a cause that’s greater than self, many even after they knew they’d be sent into harm’s way."

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The D-Day memorial comes at a tenuous time for American-European relations. Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis and the ensuing Russian annexation of the Crimea, much of Europe has been fraught with apprehension. Europe and the United States suspended Russia from the Group of 8 major powers and imposed sanctions on the country. On Thursday, Obama announced in a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron that Russia has one month to quell pro-Russian militants in the eastern Ukraine or it'll receive harsher international sanctions.

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin was invited to the D-Day anniversary ceremony President François Hollande of France, he did not attend. He will be joining Obama for a private lunch with other world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.