Considering that the government shutdown prohibits the access to museums, parks, memorials and monuments in and around Toledo, the World War II veterans are considered barred from seeing the site that was created for their priceless service and sacrifice during the World War II so that the future generations could get to enjoy the freedoms that they are enjoying now.
But all the efforts of Honor Flight, a charity for WWII vets, may just be in vain as the government shutdown threatens the cancellation of the pre-scheduled trips to memorial sites in Toledo.
Northwest Ohio Honor Flight President Lee Armstrong related that they tried to inquire from employees of the Transportation Safety Administration who were working at the Toledo Express Airport last September 30, Monday. They asked whether their scheduled flights were affected by the shutdown. The public relations representative merely gave a noncommittal message in response. The message states that the TSA office could not access the voicemail or e-mail of Honor Flight due to government shutdown.
Honor Flight also tried to inquire at the office of Rep. Marcy Kaptur’s in the 9th District. A letter from the office states that, “…only services deemed essential for the safety of human life and protection of property will be continued.”
But, the WWII vets, almost 100 years in age, could not be deterred by the bar. Even the odds of death during the war was not able to stop the soldiers from charging into enemy lines.
Storming Through the Barriers
In fact, they have managed to storm through the barriers set up in the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial in their previous scheduled visits during the first two days of October.
These memorials are open 24-hours a day during normal operations. Due to the government shutdown, barriers were placed around these otherwise open memorials. The vets mostly in their wheel chairs charged against the barriers. Police, park service employees and intrigued tourists looked on the incident as if they are watching a theatrical redo of a somewhat staged scene of WWII.
“The Germans and the Japanese couldn’t contain us. They weren’t going to let barriers contain them today. They wanted to see their memorial,” says Armstrong to the media present during the visit.
Honor Flight plans to push through their scheduled visit this October 9, Wednesday. Mr. Armstrong sought the permission of Park Service Employees. When informed of their plan, the park service employee told Armstrong that the vets will be arrested once they force their way into the park.
Armstrong replied, “… are you kidding me? You’re going to arrest a 90/91-year-old veteran from seeing his memorial? If it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t be there”.
The employee answered, “‘That’s correct sir.'” Yet when asked for her name, the employee hung up the phone.
What the government officials have to say
A letter of request was sent to the White House through Rep. Steven Palazzo before the October 1 visit of the WWII vets. The letter sought the permission of the White House for the veterans to visit the World War II Memorial. The Department of Interior rejected the request.
Several government officials were also said to be seen aiding the WWII vets as they stormed the WWII Memorial including Rep. Palazzo and Rep. Steve King among others.
The vets also found an ally in the person of Sen. Rand Paul who said on Fox News, “If Harry Reid and the president want to keep the parks closed — I mean did you read the story today? Some idiot in government sent goons out there to set up barricades so they couldn’t see the monument. People had to spend hours setting up barricades where there are never barricades to prevent people from seeing the World War II monument because they’re trying to play a charade.”
Honor Flight hopes that the government will see through their concerns despite the government shutdown. Clearly, the World War II vets have displayed that they are no threat to national security for them to be denied a simple desire of seeing a site built as tribute to their bravery, patriotism and selfless sacrifice.
Honor Flight’s Good Intentions
Honor Flight is a charity that provides all-expense paid trips to World War II Veterans to see the memorials to their honor in Washington, DC. This is why they can only express disgust over the outright threat of arrest should they choose to push through their visits during the government shutdown. Their intentions are not to instigate civil disobedience. They simply see no threat to national security the gesture of veterans seeing a memorial site.
The President of Northwest Ohio Honor Flight President Lee Armstrong says that 99% of the veterans of Honor Flight have never had the chance to visit their memorial. Most of the veterans are also in their 90’s and hopes to still live to see the sites. They have already scheduled the visit of around 35,000 veterans for this October, including more than 900 expecting vets just for the first five days of the month.