A 100-year-old ex-soldier will get married 80 years after D-Day

A 100-year-old ex-soldier will get married 80 years after D-Day
A 100-year-old ex-soldier will get married 80 years after D-Day

Jeanne Swerlin, 96, and Harold Terens, 100, at their home in Florida.

AFP

The love story between Harold Terens and Jeanne Swerlin is more beautiful “than that of Romeo and Juliet”: the American veteran and his fiancée got married in June in France, in the middle of the 80th anniversary of the Landing of the Allied troops during the Second World War.

Aged 100, the man who received the French Legion of Honor in 2019 from President Emmanuel Macron will be glorified again on June 6, during the celebrations of the 80th anniversary of the military operation which contributed to the defeat of Germany. Two days later, the couple will get married in Carentan-les-Marais, very close to the beaches where thousands of soldiers landed in 1944.

“It’s a love story like you’ve never seen,” the veteran boasts with a smile, during an interview with AFP, in Jeanne Swerlin’s house in Boca Raton, Florida. . In this sunny haven in the southeastern United States, the couple glances at each other in love, holds hands and kisses like the first day.

Harold Terens “is an incredible person,” confides his future wife of 96 years. “I love everything about him. He is handsome and a very good kisser. Joyful and quick-witted, the veteran is also blessed with a prodigious memory. Dates, cities and events: he remembers everything without hesitation. A living history book.

He enlisted at 18

Shortly after his 18th birthday, Japan bombed the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. Like many young Americans, he wants to join the army. Harold Terens becomes an expert in Morse code, a coded alphabet used by the military to transmit texts, often encrypted. At the age of 20, he left on an American ship to England, where he was responsible for land-air communications for a squadron of the famous American P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes.

“We were losing the war, because we were losing a lot of planes and pilots,” he recalls. “These pilots were friends and they killed them. They were all young.” His company lost half of its 60 planes during the D-Day landings and he then volunteered to transport German prisoners of war and freed Allied troops from Normandy to England.

Secret mission in Ukraine

One day he receives an envelope with instructions not to open it until he arrives at a certain destination. He begins a journey to then-Soviet Ukraine, passing through Casablanca, Cairo, Baghdad and Tehran. When he arrives in Ukraine, a Russian officer informs him that he is taking part in a secret mission. Harold Terens must supply bombs, fuel and food to American planes taking off from England and attacking Nazi oil fields in Romania.

The operation lasted 24 hours, until the Germans discovered the Ukrainian base and attacked it. The young American soldier managed to escape. Contracting dysentery, he survives with the help of a local farming family. Back in England, he avoids death once again, when he is refused a drink in a pub which is about to close. Disappointed, he left the establishment which was shortly after bombed by the Germans.

After the war, he married Thelma, his first wife. They remained married for 70 years and had three children. Harold Terens works in a British company. Then, upon retirement, the couple moved to Florida. Thelma died in 2018. He was devastated: “Three years of feeling sorry for myself and mourning the death of my wife.”

No immediate love at first sight

But, in 2021 a mutual friend introduced him to Jeanne Swerlin, a woman, also a widow, whom he described as dazzling. But no love at first sight between the two. When they first meet, Harold Terens barely looks at her. On the second date, everything changes and they become inseparable.

“I’ve never loved anyone like this woman,” he enthuses. “She lights up my life. She makes everything beautiful, that life is worth living.”

They will get married during a ceremony where the granddaughter of the former soldier will sing the hit “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston. Her great-granddaughter will scatter flower petals on the ground. “I have everything,” says Harold Terens. “I’m probably the luckiest person in the world.”

(afp)

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