October 2, 2013

Despite shutdown, veterans enter WWII memorial

The barricades come down – no one knows how – for a group that had arrived by charter as part of an honor flight program.

By Michael E. Ruane
The Washington Post

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World War II Veteran George Bloss, from Gulfport, Miss., looks out over the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Veterans who had traveled from across the country were allowed to visit the National World War II Memorial after it had been officially closed because of the partial government shutdown. After their visit, National World War II Memorial was closed again. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Korean War veteran Robert Olson, from Iowa, is pushed in his wheelchair by Zach Twedt, also from Iowa, around the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Veterans who had traveled from across the country were allowed to visit the National World War II Memorial after it had been officially closed because of the partial government shutdown. After their visit, the National World War II Memorial was closed again. The Lincoln Memorial is seen in the distance. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

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Their plane arrived at Reagan National Airport at 10 a.m. from Gulfport, Miss. and was greeted by cheers and people waving small American flags.

By 11:30, the veterans were on the Mall, where, at midday, some memorials and monuments were closed and others were not.

Before their assault, the Mississippi veterans were upset about being shut out by the closedown.

"I'm mad as hell about it," Percy Scarborough, 88, of Petal said as he sat in his wheelchair.

The veteran of the 1944 Allied landing on Omaha Beach in France said: "Why would they close something like this? Why would they close Washington? Damned folks can't get along."

"I think we ought to take them all and send them home," he said. "Get a new group, if they can't work together."

Once inside the memorial, though, Warren "Andy" Anderson of Diamondhead, Miss., who flew weather missions on B-25 bombers during the war, said it was very nice.

"I'm glad I got in," he said. "This is the first time, and probably I won't be here again because I'm 92 years old."

The Mississipians were not the only old soldiers who stormed the barriers of political gridlock Tuesday.

At the Mall's Korean War Veterans Memorial, a group of Puerto Rican vets said they also moved barricades to lay a wreath and pay tribute to comrades.

They represented the Puerto Rican 65th Infantry Regiment, which fought savage battles, often against overwhelming Chinese and North Korean forces, during the war.

Anthony Mele, president of the regiment's honor task force, said a Park Police officer spoke to the group. Then, "his body language was he literally turned his face and walked away," Mele said, as the men moved the barriers to enter.

"We went on the other side of the barriers like good soldiers should, and we laid our wreath there," Mele said. "We were told that all permits were rescinded. . . . I thought they said all permits were rescinded except ours."

Thomas Lopez, 84, said he was honored to be able to visit the memorial and remember fellow soldiers of the 65th regiment.

"This is a shame to me," he said of the bypassed barricades. "We're part of this country, and we fought for this country, and it doesn't seem necessary."

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A group of veterans traveling from Mississippi manages to visit the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday despite the government shutdown that closed all monuments.

The Washington Post

  


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