Bay Area veterans to visit WWII Memorial

October 2, 2013 5:43:47 PM PDT
The partial government shutdown entered its second day Wednesday with many federal workers furloughed and parks and offices closed, but an exception was made after an embarrassing scene for some members of Congress with a decision to open the World War II memorial to veterans including some from the Bay Area.

The WWII Memorial has become a lightning rod in the debate over the federal shutdown and its consequences. The site is still officially closed, but after seeing elderly vets trying to breach the barricades Tuesday, there has been a change of heart.

They did it again Wednesday. Groups of veterans managed to avoid the government shut down and visit the National Memorial, a monument built in their honor in Washington D.C. "I'm glad it's open because I think what the politicians are doing is nuts, " one veteran said.

On Wednesday, the National Park Service allowed them in. On Tuesday, the barricades were physically moved aside. The veterans are part of what's called "Honor Flights" and 2,200 of them are expected to tour the memorial this month alone. That number includes a group from the Bay Area scheduled to leave SFO on October 11.

"I couldn't fathom taking my World War II veterans back there and not being allowed to go into the memorial. It's their memorial. It's not ours. It's not the lawmakers. It's their memorial and they deserve to be in there," Honor Flight co-founder Tom Johnson said.

Apparently, the National Park Service agrees. They released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying, "The Honor Flights are being granted access to the WWII memorial to conduct First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service regulations."

Johnson says most of the vets are elderly and this is the opportunity of a lifetime. "The majority of them will never get a chance to see it if we don't take them," he said.

Johnson says a 97-year-old vet is going on next week's tour and he's hoping that whatever happens with the government shutdown, that memorial will remain open.


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