Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial Normandy, France, June 6, 2009

....I'm not the first American President to come and mark this anniversary, and I likely will not be the last. This is an event that has long brought to this coast both heads of state and grateful citizens; veterans and their loved ones; the liberated and their liberators. It's been written about and spoken of and depicted in countless books and films and speeches. And long after our time on this Earth has passed, one word will still bring forth the pride and awe of men and women who will never meet the heroes who sit before us: D-Day.... For more read President Barack Obama's remarks at the D-Day 65th Anniversary Ceremony

All of us are witnesses to history in the making. Yet our current events are inextricably intertwined with the past. This is one of the points that was so eloquently made atop Omaha Beach this day in Normandy.

Here WWII's Western Allies marked the 65th Anniversary of D-Day. The program, held at the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, was attended by an estimated 8,000 people. Among them were more than 150 veterans.

President Barack Obama speaks during the ceremony

President Barack Obama gave prepared remarks, as well as President Nicholas Sarkozy and Prime Ministers Gordon Brown (Great Britain) and Stephen Harper (Canada). His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales was an honored guest among them.

It was a solemn occasion, made all the more sober by the acres of graves that lined the ceremonial space. This American cemetery, the largest in Europe, is the final resting place for more than 9,000 fighting men who died during the battle for Normandy, which lasted until August of 1944.

Graves at the colleville-sur-Mer American Cemetery

The sun shone brightly for the nearly two hour commemoration and the sea was calm, as glints of sunlight flecked its peaceful, lapping waters. The ceremony was concluded with a 21 gun salute and a fly over by American, French, and British fighter jets.

US delegation was headed by the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, General Eric Shinseki and other guests included the President's great uncle, Charles Payne, a World War II veteran and his wife Melanie; Senators Bob and Elizabeth Dole. Film maker and actor Tom Hanks and Susan Eisenhower, whose grandfather began this mission 65 years ago with a simple charge: "Ok, let's go."

Also on June 5, a ceremony at Invalides, a Paris military landmark, forty American, British and Canadian veterans were awarded the Legion of Honor. A decoration established originally by Napoleon. President Sarkozy gave four additional veterans this medal at the Normandy ceremony the next day. It is the highest award conveyed by the French government. Many veterans told us that for them this French decoration was the pinnacle of recognition

Vets recognition

Such occasions prompt us to pause and reflect on the past, as well as on our contemporary times. In this difficult time we are now living through, we have much to learn from the legendary courage and bravery exemplified by these men.