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Kerry Commemorates D-Day in French Village He Calls Home

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stands near a photo by Tony Vaccaro, whose name graces the town hall of Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, France, June 7, 2014.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commemorated the 70th anniversary of D-Day at his mother's family estate in the French resort of Saint Briac-sur-Mer on Saturday, paying tribute to the American soldiers who died during the town's liberation in 1944.

Kerry laid a wreath at a small monument overlooking the village harbor dedicated to three U.S. soldiers who were killed during the battle to liberate the village.

Later, in a speech at the town hall, Kerry credited the courage and kindness of the people of Saint Briac, on the north coast of Brittany, for saving his family's heirlooms from the Nazis during the occupation. The Nazis eventually turned the estate into their local headquarters.

He first visited the family home, Les Essarts, two years after the war ended, when he was 4. "Almost nothing was left, just a stone staircase to the sky and an old brick chimney," said Kerry, who returned each summer for holidays.

Standing on the town hall balcony, Kerry was flanked by American photographer Tony Vaccarro, 93, known for his photograph "Kiss of Liberation." It depicts an American soldier kneeling to kiss a young French girl during the liberation of Saint Briac.

The town's mayor dedicated the town hall to Vaccaro, who appeared surprised by the news. While Vaccaro took about 10,000 images during the war, he called the "Kiss of Liberation" his most meaningful image of war.

Vaccaro said that he had lost his mother at age 3 and his father at 5, and that the villagers had taken him to their hearts.