Three U.S. Marines who lowered the flag at the U.S. Embassy in Havana more than five decades ago were given a position of honor at Friday's ceremony to raise the Stars and Stripes once again.

Jim Tracy, Mike East and Larry C. Morris received a standing ovation at the seaside diplomatic mission as they handed a folded flag to three active Marines, who raised it to a brass band rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Secretary of State John Kerry lauded the men, saying: "Promise made, promise kept."

In comments published on a U.S. State Department blog post, East recalled the moment in 1961 when Washington and Havana broke off diplomatic relations at the height of Cold War tensions.

"It was a touching moment," East said. "To see Old Glory flying for the last time in Cuba, it was . just didn't seem right."

Morris said he had been stationed on the island for just four and a half months, but he "enjoyed the people and Cuba better than any place I've ever been."