As a group of veterans who traveled hundreds of miles gathered at the barricade surrounding the closed World War II Memorial in Washington Tuesday morning, congressmen moved the barrier and let these members of the Greatest Generation through to see their monument.
“We just opened the gates and allowed 91 World War II veterans to come see their monument that was erected in their honor, and it feels great,” said Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), one of the congressmen who welcomed the vets.
The vets - many in their 80s and 90s, some in wheelchairs - visited from Mississippi and Iowa courtesy of the Honor Flight Network, which helps vets realize their dream of traveling to D.C. to visit the memorial.
Others joined them at the memorial after the barricade was moved, and police did not stop them, News4 Washington's Tom Sherwood reported.
“I was in here when I was 20 years old,” said Jim Woods, who shot down German planes with the Army’s 547th AAA Battalion. “None of this was here. I definitely wanted to see it … At my advanced age, I don’t know when I’ll get back here.”
Honor Flights are planned almost every day, according to Carol Johnson of the National Park Service. Honor Flights from about 10 other states also were planned for Tuesday, Palazzo said, as well as another four or five Wednesday. The Park Service is still deciding how to handle other visits from veterans during the shutdown, Sherwood reported.
Barricades were placed around monuments at the National Mall as the government shutdown took effect Tuesday.
Republican congressmen questioned why an open-air monument would be closed because of the government shutdown.
“At first we thought this was a bureaucratic oversight,” Palazzo said. “How could we deny our World War II veterans an opportunity to visit their memorial? But the more that we talk, it just seems that it might be more politics, petty politics, than anything else.”