The sacrifice made nearly 70 years ago by the unknown U.S. service member from World War II “helped change the tide of human history and deepen the bonds between [France and the United States],” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a ceremony Feb. 11 at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
At the ceremony, French President Francois Hollande presented the Legion of Honor, France’s highest military award, to the unknown service member. The ceremony was part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that led to the liberation of Europe.
“While this soldier’s identity is unknown, the meaning of his sacrifice is not. He died helping liberate a continent, building a just peace, and upholding the right to be free,” Hagel said.
The medal presentation honored the sacrifices made by American service members and the links between France and the United States, Hollande said. These links were “forged from the common conception of democracy and freedom,” he said.
“[The medal] bears testimony of a solidarity which forever unites our two countries,” Hollande added.
“Today we honor that service and the service of all Americans who served and died in World War II,” the defense secretary said. “And we celebrate centuries of friendship between our nations and between our militaries.”
That friendship endures even today, Hagel noted. “Together the United States and France are partners around the world in defending our shared values and building a more hopeful future. We are proud to be writing the next chapter in this long and storied friendship.”