World War II Veterans Prove Unstoppable, Entering Memorial
WWII veterans continue to bypass shutdown effects and enter memorial.
Oct. 2, 2013— -- Another day, another barricade crossed.
Following the example set on Tuesday by a group of fellow veterans from Mississippi, World War II "honor flights" from Missouri, Illinois and Michigan entered the closed World War II memorial on Wednesday, past a blockade erected because of the government shutdown.
The first busload of veterans arrived to a circus of media and members of Congress just after 11 a.m. Several members of Congress who were on hand opened the barricades, allowing the veterans access to the memorial. Since then, several hundred of them have passed through the gates.
According to the National Park Service, the memorial remains officially closed, but a statement released by the department states Honor Flight members will not be barred from entering the site.
"The Honor Flights are being granted access to the WWII memorial to conduct First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service regulations applicable to the National Mall and Memorial Parks," said National Park Service Spokeswoman Carol Johnson in a statement regarding the closure of World War II and other national memorials in DC. "This is consistent with the DOI Closure Determination and Notice issued on October 1, 2013."
The memorial has become a focal point for lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, to showcase what they say are the unfortunate consequences of the government shutdown now in its second day.
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., accompanied the group of veterans from Chicago on Wednesday. Earlier he pledged on Twitter that they would not be deterred:
Missouri Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Roy Blunt, Mo., were also on hand to accompany the Heartland Honor flight, representing 90 Kansas City veterans, through the memorial.
On Tuesday -- the first full day of the shutdown -- more than 140 veterans also made the journey from Mississippi and Iowa, to visit the memorial. By wheelchair and with cane in hand they came to find the World War II Memorial closed -- fenced off with bicycle gates, police tape and a sign that read, "Because of the Federal Government SHUTDOWN, All National Parks Are CLOSED."
By 11:45 a.m., with help from members of Congress, the flimsy gates were pushed aside and the vets were able to reflect and enjoy the granite and bronze tribute to their service so many years ago. But by Tuesday afternoon, the memorial was re-closed and cleared by U.S. Park Police. Honor Flights were notified that they should anticipate the memorial will be shut down.
But Honor Flights Chairman James McLaughlin vowed that the veterans would keep coming as they did on Wednesday.
"The flights will continue. Many of them are charter flights that were arranged months ago," McLaughlin told ABC News. "The others are commercial flights that again have been arranged months ago. They've been paid for, the busses have been paid for so certainly the flights will continue, there's no way to stop them."
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