When Barack Obama joins Nicolas Sarkozy for the 65th anniversary celebration of the invasion of Normandy that liberated France, he will be joined by a veteran of the war that the French overlooked. No, not Elizabeth Windsor, who served the war effort as a mechanic before becoming Queen Elizabeth II, and who remains snubbed by both Obama and Sarkozy. Instead, Obama will make it a family affair:
President Obama’s great uncle Charlie Payne, who helped liberate a German concentration camp in 1945, will travel to Normandy to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion this Saturday, a White House official tells ABC News.
Payne, the younger brother of the president’s late grandmother Madelyn Dunham, served as a private first class in the Army’s 89th Infantry Division.
I think it’s admirable of Obama to bring along his uncle. At his age, he may not get a chance to participate in another high-profile celebration of D-Day and the liberation of France. Payne is one of the hundreds of thousands of heroes who helped end a despicable tyranny and keep the West safe for freedom and liberty. I hope that Payne will be joined by as many of his comrades as possible, in order to give us one more opportunity to honor their courage, sacrifice, and victory while they’re with us to enjoy it.
Of course, the same holds true for Queen Elizabeth, who had not been invited to the remembrance. Neither Obama nor Sarkozy were alive on D-Day. One would think that any major celebration would include the one head of state in the West that actually served in the war, out of simple respect for her service. Apparently, that thought never occurred to the French, or to the Obama administration either, at least not at first.
After the diplomatic row hit the newspapers, the French — reluctantly — invited the royal family to attend. Elizabeth initially refused, but Charles will attend in her stead:
Clarence House received an official invitation yesterday from the French Ambassador.
It was feared the furious Queen would still not attend. But Charles told her it was important at least one of the family made the trip.
A spokesman said: “The Prince of Wales will attend D-Day commemorations in Normandy on the invitation of President Sarkozy.”
The Mirror reports that Obama finally demanded that the Queen be invited or at least represented, and if so, good for him. Maybe the White House Protocol Office should have considered that from the beginning, but perhaps they were busy buying iPods and DVD retrospectives of American cinema for heads of state.
Update: Some people in the comments are confused about the picture. It is young Elizabeth Windsor serving her country during World War II by performing vehicle maintenance.