|WWII Vets Cross Memorial Barricades Despite Shutdown|
|By ANNETA KONSTANTINIDES, JARED KOTLER AND NICOLE ROSSOLL||Oct 1, 2013, 12:25 PM|
A group of 92 Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight Veterans refused to let a government shutdown stop them from entering the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., this morning.
Though the memorial was technically closed due to the government shutdown that went into effect early this morning, they managed to enter the memorial and tour the site.
Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said in interviews that the gates were opened for the veterans to access the memorial.
The vets were taking part in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight that was originally established in 2011 to help fly the state's WWII veterans to Washington D.C., free of charge, and provide tours so that they may see the memorials dedicated to honor their service.
Unfortunately, other veterans are not going to be as lucky as today's group. The WWII Memorial will be re-closed this afternoon and remain closed until funding is restored. National Mall and Memorial Parks Communications Officer Carol Johnson told ABC News the memorial will be shut down and cleared by Park Police.
Honor Flights scheduled for the month of October have been notified that the memorial will be closed until the federal government re-opens. A group of 100 veterans is still expected to arrive from Chicago tomorrow.
The Mississippi veterans arrived at Reagan National Airport around 10 a.m. They were scheduled to witness a bag-pipe procession and wreath-laying ceremony at the WWII memorial before departing to tour the Lincoln, the Korean and Vietnam War Memorials, the Iwo Jima Monument and Arlington National Cemetery.
In a letter to the president, released Sept. 30, Congressman Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., requested that the monument remain open to the public:
"It would be truly devastating to our veterans that travel great lengths to share this experience with family and friends and see a piece of their own history," he wrote. "I request that you immediately instruct the Department of Interior and National Service to ensure that veterans are not denied access to monuments on the National Mall in the case of a government shutdown. It is the very least we can do for our Greatest Generation who sacrificed so much on behalf of our country."
Palazzo tweeted today:
The National Republican Congressional Committee also joined the twitter conversation about this event, asking followers to "sign our petition to support our veterans storming the WW2 memorial despite the Democrats' shutdown."
Notably, GOP congressmen and women were not the only members out supporting the World War II veterans today. Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin was also at the memorial this morning lending his support to the group of veterans.