Visiting veterans storm the gates of closed war memorials

A group of veterans from Mississippi make it inside the World War II Memorial, despite Shutdown & barricades

Photo Story: A group of veterans from Mississippi make it inside the World War II Memorial, despite Shutdown & barricades

On Tuesday morning a group of about 140 elderly veterans who fought the fascists 70 years ago, got off their buses some leaning on canes and some easing on wheel chairs to pay homage to their great crusade and fallen heroes. The Veteran Gentlemen were from Omaha beach, Okinawa and the Italian campaign and they were in blue baseball caps and red T-shirts. They arrived only to face metal barricades and closed signs due to the federal shutdown.

The World War II veterans said just being present there was emotional but it was a shame to have come all the way from Mississippi to be barred from entering their monument on the National Mall, Washington D. C.. Suddenly cheers and applause erupted as the barricades had been pushed aside. It was not clear who pushed aside the bicycle-rack-type barricades but it happened after the veterans were joined by a group of Republican lawmakers and television crews. As they entered, a bagpiper played ‘Shenandoah’ or ‘Across the wide Missouri’, the traditional American folk song.

The onlookers nearby clapped and cheered and thanked them for their services. The National Park service spokeswoman said Park Police were there observing the situation. Republican Congressman for Michigan’s 2nd congressional district, Bill Huizenga told portion of the group inside the memorial that it had been “the best civil disobedience seen in Washington for a long time”. As the son of a World War II veteran he said “This is about you today”. He also thanked them for their service. Someone from the group shouted ‘ Memebers of Congress here say America doesn’t shut down!’. And a group of people chanted ‘We love our congressmen!’

Huizenga claimed that the republican congressmen had pushed aside the barricades while Roger Wicker, junior United States Senator from Mississippi, said that he thought it was the Park Service that had opened the gates as they did not like the situation. Carol Bradley Johnson, the Park Service spokeswoman, the monuments are closed because during a shutdown there is no money to pay the rangers and staffs to provide adequate safety of visitors. Johnson said that the agency does not enjoy keeping the memorials shut down and that it’s important that they protected and preserved their monuments for future generations.

Republican Congressman for Mississippi’s 4th congressional district, Steven Palazzo expressed his dissatisfaction over barricading the Honor Flight veterans who came to pay homage to the war memorials. “All I can say is the Japanese couldn’t stop them, the Germans couldn’t stop them. Apparently a little gate couldn’t stop them” he said. Honor Flight is a program that flies in veterans from around the country for free to visit the memorials.

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Mohammad Rafi Saad

Mohammad Rafi Saad is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE