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US Troops to Lead Paris Bastille Day Parade for First Time

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania arrive on Air Force One at Orly Airport in Paris, Thursday, July 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania arrive on Air Force One at Orly Airport in Paris, Thursday, July 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Donald Trump was boarding Air Force One for Paris on Wednesday night to attend Bastille Day ceremonies and a military parade down the Champs-Elysees that will be led for the first time by U.S. troops.

About 200 troops from U.S. European Command will have the honor of leading the parade to mark the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I in 1917. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and an F-22 Raptor will also conduct a flyover of the parade.

"France stood with us during the American Revolution, and that strategic partnership endures today," Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, EuCom commander and NATO supreme commander, said in a statement.

"On behalf of the 60,000 service members standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the French to ensure Europe is whole, free and at peace, we are honored to lead the Bastille Day Parade and help celebrate French independence," he said.

"During the centennial of America's entry into World War I, we commemorate America's sons and daughters who defended peace -- many of them descendants of European immigrants who came to America seeking freedom, opportunity and a better life," Scaparrotti said.

"Amidst the horrors of war, over four million Americans served in World War I and more than 100,000 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice," he said.

The troops participating in the parade will include soldiers from the Army's 1st Infantry Division, which was the first unit to enter France in World War I, a senior White House official said in a background briefing Tuesday.

Other units participating will be the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade; the Army's 10th Mountain Division; U.S. Army Europe's 7th Army Training Command; sailors from U.S. Naval Forces Europe; airmen from U.S. Air Forces Europe; and Marines from U.S. Marine Forces Europe.

Bastille Day, a national holiday in France, marks the storming on July 14, 1789, of the Bastille, which was used by the kings of France as a state prison. The taking of the Bastille was a catalyst for the French Revolution. Since 1880, the signal event of Bastille Day has been the military parade down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.

Trump said last month, "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," in declaring that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate accords.

However, in a phone call to the White House last month, new French President Emmanuel Macron, who has clashed with Trump on climate change, immigration and other issues, invited Trump and First Lady Melania Trump to come to Paris for Bastille Day and they accepted.

Last Saturday, Macron acknowledged that he and Trump may not be the best of friends but "What our two countries share is stronger [than our differences], given our peoples and our histories and our values as well."

"So yes, there is a disagreement, like I said to President Trump, and then I said it publicly, because there is nothing to hide. That being said, it does not prevent us from cooperating in many fields," Macron said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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