French President Emmanuel Macron has honored three American World War II service members with one of France's highest distinctions, the Legion of Honor.
The visiting dignitary honored Robert Ewald, Stanley Rzucidlo and William Barr in a ceremony in Washington on Tuesday.
"The friendship that binds France and the United States is eternal. Forged by history, it is embodied by values that are greater than us: values of democracy, freedom, human dignity," Macron said in remarks delivered in English.
"My generation has the opportunity to defend these values today because your generation, and especially people like you, decided to take all the risks to protect these values, to protect my country," Macron told the veterans, adding that he was "also paying tribute to the blood shed by all your comrades."
Ewald was an Army surgeon who participated in the Allied invasion of Omaha Beach on D-Day and fought in the Battle of Saint-L-. Rzucidlo served in the Navy and also participated in the Normandy landings. Barr served in the Air Force and "participated in a heroic manner in the bombing of Brest Harbor," according to an announcer at the ceremony.
"Robert, Stanley, William, those are the names of heroes. During World War II, your generation decided to take all the risks to protect France. You fought for freedom. Eternal gratitude from the French people," Macron later tweeted.
According to the Grand Chancellery of the Legion of Honor, the distinction is "presented on behalf of the Head of State to reward the most deserving citizens in all fields of activity." As many as 320 non-French citizens may be given the honor each year, but they do not become members of the legion.
Macron's presentation of the honor follows a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where he laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier honored "the American soldiers who fought and will continue to fight for freedom around the world," according to a tweet.