One of the neat tributes to our dwindling number of World War II veterans is the Honor Flights to Washington D.C. where these old soldiers can view the national memorials which their sacrifices helped inspire.
About 3,500 veterans, now in their high 80s or early 90s, are scheduled to visit memorials this month, including the 900 that were to visit this week. On Tuesday, the first group learned that the federal memorials were closed because of the government shutdown. The World War 2 monument is an open air memorial and seeing it blocked by concrete barricades and yellow police tape was disgraceful.
Whoever gave the order to shut down the monuments should be ashamed. It's especially galling if it was done for political reasons.
The Obama administration used a similar tactic last March when it blamed sequestration for closing the doors to all White House tours. Actually, it was Obama who signed the sequester and then blamed House Republicans for the shutdown.
Thanks to several congressmen, the veterans who traveled to Washington on Honor Flights this week got to view the memorials. After greeting the veterans from his home state on Tuesday, GOP Rep. Steve Palazzo of Mississippi, amid chants from passerby of "Let them in, let them in," opened the barricade.
Another group of veterans from Puerto Rico also moved the barricades aside at the Korean War Memorial to lay a wreath.
Former Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who was incensed when he heard that the veterans were being blocked from visiting the monuments, praised the park police officers who didn't try to make a scene and stop the group from entering. One park officer, who said he was a veteran himself, accepted the act of civil disobedience and did not enforce the 'no stopping or standing' sign for the group of 90 World War 2 veterans.
"It's kind of like we can make everything else in government that is not important keep running but when it comes to honoring these heroes, we're going to the extra effort of barricading a memorial and having parks folks shut it down," Hoekstra said. "But this is one of those days that makes you feel good. Heaven knows politicians get enough blame these days, but these folks had the courage to come down here, challenge the establishment and get it resolved."
In a scathing message against the Obama administration, Republican Sen. Rand Paul compared security at the World War II Memorial with the security present during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, in which four Americans died.
He tweeted that on Tuesday morning Barack Obama sent seven security guards to the World War II Memorial in order to keep out our vets.
Sadly, he said, that's two more than were present to guard our compound in Benghazi.
Whether it was invading the beaches of Normandy, recapturing a Pacific island, or engaging in some other distant battlefield, the survivors of The Greatest Generation have seen and experienced it all. Many of those arriving on Honor Flights are likely making their final and only trip to Washington to see their memorials.
If this administration went out of its way to deliberately block access to the monuments in order to score political points at the expense of these old veterans, then that kind of ploy sinks to a new low and should sicken every American.
By Jim Zbick