DRAGUIGNAN, France (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, Adm. Mark Ferguson, participated in a remembrance ceremony at the Rhone American Cemetery, Aug. 16.
The ceremony culminated four days of commemorative events in Draguignan and Theoule-sur-Mer to recognize the bravery and sacrifice of Allied forces who conducted Operation Dragoon, the Allied landing that led to the liberation of Southern France during World War II.
Operation Dragoon commenced on Aug. 15, 1944, first with an insertion of Allied commandos and followed by a large invasion force coming ashore in Theoule-sur-Mer.
"As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of our veterans' great endeavor, there are fewer of them, but time will not diminish the magnitude of what they endured, nor the appreciation and respect we hold for their courage," said Ferguson during the ceremony. "Each made a choice not to yield, but to press on together for a cause that transcended the individual."
Marking the fourth consecutive port visit to Theoule-sur-Mer to participate in Operation Dragoon ceremonies, USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) hosted a reception, conducted a service project at the Rhone American cemetery, observed a ceremony at the Cross of Lorraine, and participated in the parade of ships.
Rear Adm. Robert Burke, deputy commander, U.S. 6th Fleet, joined Mayor of Theoule-sur-Mer Georges Botella, U.S. Charge de Affairs to France Uzra Zeya, and other French dignitaries in an at-sea wreath laying at the point where Operation Dragoon commenced. Following that ceremony, distinguished guests and veterans marched through Theoule-sur-Mer to the central square.
"The partnership between brave French and American forces resulted in the successful execution of that mission. That partnership has existed since the birth of the United States of America, and continues to this day," said Burke to guests aboard Mount Whitney and also to the community of Theoule-sur-Mer.
The U.S. Naval Forces Europe band also supported the activities, playing taps at the wreath laying ceremony, marching in the parade, and playing the national anthems at the Rhone American Cemetery ceremony.
As the Rhone American Cemetery ceremony closed, Ferguson recognized the French-U.S. partnership that was further reinforced during World War II and remains strong today.
"Our two nations face the struggles of our time with the same sense of purpose and resolve, Ferguson said. "We came out of the destruction and devastation of World War II with bonds forged from shared values and cemented in an Alliance that endures to this day."
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