Despite Shutdown, Veterans Find A Way Into World War II Memorial

 

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By Kelsey Hopper

BU Washington News Service

WASHINGTON—The plaza outside one of the entrances to the World War II Memorial was speckled with the yellow t-shirts and jackets worn by veterans from the Honor Flight of Southern New Mexico.

The veterans came here Thursday despite a partial government shutdown that, since Tuesday, has closed all national parks, monuments and memorials; they arrived at a gated World War II Memorial on the National Mall.

But, bypassing the signs indicating the site’s closure, the veterans from New Mexico were accompanied into the memorial by their local member of Congress, Republican Rep. Steve Pearce.

With the help of members of Congress, veterans groups that had planned trips to the World War II Memorial have been permitted to visit it, despite the barriers that block most tourists from getting in.

While National Park Service rangers guarded the memorial, unable to let other visitors inside, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, escorted a Korean War veteran and his wife beyond the barricades.

“They came all the way from California on a trip that was purchased by their children and they came here and they weren’t able to get in, and so I just thought, ‘Let’s go in’,” said King. “These need to be open to everybody, but I cannot abide them being closed to our WWII veterans or any of our other veterans.”

Ironically, King, a tea party favorite, is among the most vocal of the group of House conservatives that has resisted providing funding to reopen the government unless the Obama administration’s health care law is sharply cut back.

In a statement, the National Park Service said: “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.”

The National Park Service has made narrow provisions for some aging veterans to gain access to the memorial, but it appeared Thursday that other tourists – including some veterans—were still unable to get inside.

Carol Bottoms of Richmond, Va., came to the memorial on a pre-planned trip to Washington D.C. with her husband, a World War II veteran. They were unable to enter the memorial, simply taking pictures from the outside of the barrier and sharing stories of their disappointment with other visitors.

“This is disgusting,” said Bottoms, “Our funds paid to put these barricades up. We should be able to take them down.”

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