Government Shutdown: WW II Vets Say Feds Should Be Ashamed for Closing Their Memorial

The “Honor Flights” keep coming, anyway

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UPDATE: The National Park Service allowed World War II veterans to visit their memorial on the National Mall Wednesday despite the government shutdown.

The decision — the park service said their visits now constitute protected “First Amendment activity” — came as hundreds of veterans in their 80s and 90s from Kansas and Missouri defied federal orders that the site was closed Wednesday morning and visited it, anyway.

The decision marked a 180-degree turn from park-service guidance Monday declaring that the open-air memorial would be closed during the shutdown.

Washington politicians may have the time to debate how to fund the government, now that their pig-headedness has shut it down, but the nation’s World War II veterans don’t.

“World War II veterans are dying by the hundreds every day,” says Fred Yanow, of Northbrook, Ill., who spent 1942-45 in the Pacific theater as an Army private. “It’s a shame that they don’t care about World War II veterans when so many of them are dying off.” The 16 million men and women who wore their nation’s uniform in the so-called “Good War,” from 1941 to 1945, are leaving for eternal R&R at the rate of 650 a day.

Yet politicians also can sense bad PR a mile away, and erecting barricades to keep wheelchair-bound vets away from a memorial honoring their sacrifice doesn’t pass the smell test. By late Tuesday, GOP lawmakers tried — and failed — to formally re-open war memorials that had been closed only hours earlier because of the government shutdown. As Tuesday’s charade made clear to even the most self-righteous solon, shutting the memorial to the elderly heroes it was built to honor is a political non-starter.

For the troops that fought at Anzio, Normandy and Okinawa in their teens, storming the World War II Memorial in their 80s and 90s — against National Park police officers who seemed pre-emptively to wave white flags — was a piece of cake.

Yanow plans to fly via a free (to him) Honor Flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to visit the World War II memorial, even if it remains barricaded and his visit may be limited to a drive-by.

“Because of the federal government shutdown,” the National Park Service’s World War II Memorial website said Tuesday, “all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating.” Yanow retains a GI’s scorn for those in charge. “It’s a disgrace to shut down the memorial,” he says. “The government is working for themselves, and not for the public.”

Government Shutdown Forces Closures In Nation's  Capitol

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Manning the barricades: Park Service police moving barriers into place to keep veterans at bay.

Veterans have been stacked up for months on Honor Flight rosters, awaiting their chance to visit the memorial. When you get to be their age, there’s never a good time to put off a visit. “They’re in their mid-80s to 90s, and this is the only opportunity they’re ever going to have to be able to see that memorial,” says Diane Gresse, Honor Flight’s executive director. “Most of these men and women have been on a waiting list for one or two years, sometimes longer.”

“Time is of the essence,” Honor Flight makes clear on its website. Gresse sums it up more poignantly: “A lot of these veterans,” she says, “hang on until they can experience an Honor Flight trip.”

Nearly 1,000 are due in on Honor Flights though Sunday, with a total of 4,300 slated to visit the World War II memorial before the Honor Flight’s flying season ends just before Thanksgiving. “There’s a lot of difference between closing down a zoo,” Gresse says, “and telling a veteran that he is going to be locked out of his or her memorial.”

With reinforcements provided by local congressmen, some 200 vets from Iowa and Mississippi were permitted to visit the memorial Tuesday after the Park Service declared that wouldn’t be possible. “We have been getting quite a few calls from honor flights and have had to let them know that the memorial will be closed and the fountain will be off, that the Mall is legally closed,” Park Service spokeswoman Carol Bradley Johnson said in the Washington Post’s Tuesday edition. “So, unfortunately, they won’t be able to access the memorial.”

Government Shutdown Forces Closures In Nation's  Capitol

Alex Wong / Getty Images

A World War II veteran views his memorial from outside the barricades.

That went over like a lead zeppelin, and was quickly repudiated by the very lawmakers whose actions triggered the memorial’s shutdown. Veterans, some accompanied by their local lawmakers, pushed through metal barriers when they arrived for their late-morning visit, slowly surging into the plaza-like memorial. “It’s the best civil disobedience we’ve seen in Washington for a long time,” Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., told them.

Back on Capitol Hill, those who played a key role in the shutdown wiped culpability from their hands. “I know that today we have Honor Flight veterans flying into Washington to come and enjoy the memorials here,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said. “I’m told that they are at the World War II Memorial site, regardless of the barriers, because they should, as Americans, as veterans, people who’ve served this country, have the ability to enjoy that site.” He blamed Democrats’ “silliness” for the shutdown, citing their refusal to sit down and negotiate.

But Yanow, a self-described Democrat, says he and the dozen pals he regularly joins for breakfast blame the Republicans for the standoff, and the resulting memorial shutdown. “The Congress seems to want to shut down everything that our President wants,” he says. “I don’t know if that’s because he’s black, or because he’s a Democrat.”

But not all vets shared Yanow’s perspective. “The main question is, how do we stop spending?” asked Norman Rudi from Iowa, another Army veteran of World War II action in the Pacific. “An attempt to close all the national monuments that belong to the American people is purely a ruse by the President to say, ‘Hey, get on my side.’ And he’s absolutely wrong.”

Day one of federal government shutdown

Tim Isbell / Biloxi Sun Herald / MCT via Getty Images

Mississippi veterans defy the barricades designed to keep them outside their World War II Memorial.

The federal government’s shutdown closed the nation’s monuments and memorials around the country, including the gleaming metal and stone edifices erected to honor Jefferson, Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Greatest Generation that fought World War II. Their memorial, between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, opened in 2004. A year later, thousands of veterans began taking free trips to the capital, funded by donations, to visit their memorial.

Many are old and infirm, but they generate sustained applause from everyday passengers when they arrive at one of the capital region’s three airports. They board buses for the trek to the National Mall, where they visit their memorial to commemorate their youth, and those no longer alive, or capable of making the trip. If the vets come from east of the Mississippi River, they generally return home the same day; westerners stay an extra day or two.

Yanow, who turns 90 next Monday, sums up the snafu with a soldier’s simple statement. “It’s a foolish thing,” he says, almost wistfully, “to deprive World War II veterans of their memorial.”

– With reporting by Katy Steinmetz and Denver Nicks

70 comments
davidbabcook
davidbabcook

For our ww2 heros You Silent Ones Who Rest In Peace on Dave Babcook videos

SarahMcNeill
SarahMcNeill

I have lots of respect for the vets of world war II. They fought and sacrificed themselves to preserve freedom abroad and American values at home. Unfortunately, it appears all the fight has been taken out of them, they have no more will to sacrifice for their fellow countrymen. Why did none of them ask their Republican benefactors why it is more important for them to see their memorial, than it is to ensure that programs for the poor and recent vets get funded? Why have they not insisted that programs that affect so many Americans be funded? These programs include pre-schools in the Head Start program essential to so many families, CDC food safety programs that track food born disease outbreaks like salmonella and E. col, and food stamp programs for the needy.

8.9 million mothers and children under 5 are set to lose their supplemental vouchers for nutritional food, infant formula and other essentials through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC. I appreciate the world war II vets, and yes for many of them this could be their last chance to see it, but at least their not going hungry like these children.

It is sad that these heroes are dying off today, but at least they have been taken care of. None of them are in limbo waiting for the VA to wade through the backlog of cases. Just as the VA began to make headway through the painful and devastating backlog that has thrown so many vets lives into chaos, the shutdown has brought that headway to a halt. Now the backlog and delays are expected to grow again with even more vets in limbo. Do the WWII vets really believe they are more important than the vets of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Yes I respect the vets of the second world war. They were heroes then, but it looks as if they have now become bitter old men who believe in the republican ideal of I,Me,Mine.

esnyc80
esnyc80

Obama thinks the vets who defeated the Nazis need government employees to help them visit their own memorial.

CurtisWebster
CurtisWebster

Who are they renting the fencing from?  Who did they pay to erect it?  You know that stuff isn't cheap.

sallyedelstein
sallyedelstein

This age of divisiveness between, democrats and republicans, rich and poor,  stands in stark contrast to the sacrifices and combined efforts of the greatest generation of WWII. 

At a time when "use it up, wear it out or do without" was the mantra, these patriotic Americans knew there was only one way the job could get done was to pull together and give whether on the battlefield, the homefront or war plant. For an illustrated look at WWII and the Homefront http://wp.me/P2qifI-f

JohnVandertow
JohnVandertow

right but there were never barricades there before... what sense does it make to close stuff like that down where anyone can normally access it? it's plain stupidity and wasteful..tell the cops to go home or fight real crime..


hattmann
hattmann

I have seen more then a few comments about people being furloughed and things not getting done.  Remember when there was meaning to the term public servant.  I worked at a company once that during a tough time told us to take every other Friday off without pay.  We all showed up anyway because we cared.  These people could very well come to work.  If these jobs were so important they would come to work out of a sense of duty.  Does anyone really think this is more then just a paid vacation for these federal workers?

As to these vets being whiners as one poster indicated.  Tell that to my friend who went through D-Day and the Bulge.

larainemharrison
larainemharrison

Glad that you pointed out that the same wonderful folks who brought you the shut down are now insisting that the vets have a right to visit their own memorial.   Michele Bachman was outraged, outraged!! that the memorial was closed.  The TPers take no responsibility for their actions--like a two year old with chocolate all over his face, they deny that they did anything wrong.  Please, Americans, don't let our country get hijacked by these terrorists.  They're not patriots--they're spoiled brats. 

DarwinAkbar
DarwinAkbar

Tell the Tea Party House Republicans to stop holding the entire country ransom! One faction of one-half of one-third of government has no rights to trash the entire country. Fcuk them!

IbcinguToo
IbcinguToo

Nice to see the racist GOP World War II vets out in full force.

jeremyhall1
jeremyhall1

Why would public sites and land (parks) be closed due to lack of funding? Shouldn't it be that they are simply not staffed? The risk of no funding should be misuse of public lands & monuments, not lack of access. Preventing access is politically motivated.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> "...erecting barricades to keep wheelchair-bound vets away from a memorial honoring their sacrifice doesn’t pass the smell test."

But stopping safety inspections and denying food and education for kids passes the smell test easily.

I'm sympathetic to these veterans' opinions, but prioritizing whether or not the bathrooms at a national monument are open over WIC program funding is not something the GOP should be proud of doing.



glennra3
glennra3

The WWII memorial is the ugliest, most sterile looking monument in Washington. It is reminiscent of something out of fascist Italy or Nazi Germany and could have been designed by Albert Speer.


They shouldn't just close it down; they should tear it down and build something more representative of the democratic values for which those Americans fought.


One more thing. When did the "Greatest Generation" become a bunch of whiners? Suck it up, guys. This isn't about you or the eye sore they built to honor your service.


mary.waterton
mary.waterton

No federal employees have been furloughed at the Obamacare Exchanges. It seems that Obama and Reid can find and abundance of taxpayer money when they want to. Maybe those disgusted WW2 veterans should ask Obama and Reid why that is.

BargBin
BargBin

The furlough doesn't mean that employees can't volunteer. It looks like government bosses forgot that this country is based on volunteering and respect. Instead of spending time doing nothing they can pay some tribute to real heroes. I bet, there are plenty of charities that will fund fountains and electricity for memorials (I personally will). It can be easier accomplished by people if government will get out of the museum business.

glennra3
glennra3

@esnyc80 


No, the U.S. Park Police thinks that national monuments and memorials need to be staffed, both for the protection of the public and the security of our landmarks.


Over 15 million people visit Washington D.C. every year. If just 1/10th of 1% of those people decide to chip off a piece of a monument for a souvenir or deface a monument that is 15,000 people doing damage to our national heritage.


You don't think people would do such a thing? 


Visit Stonehenge and see all the damage done before it was roped off. The Mona Lisa has had rocks thrown at it, red paint splashed on it, and in '56 was doused with acid. The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen has been knocked off its base and once was decapitated and had the head stolen. Michelangelo's David and Pieta have both been attacked with a hammer. 


Closer to home, the Vietnam Memorial has had swastikas scratched into it, the Lincoln Memorial has been splattered with green paint, and Gettysburg is a frequent and regular target for vandals.


Not everything is a presidential conspiracy. Sometimes there are actually good reasons why things work the way they do.

glennra3
glennra3

@JohnVandertow

There were never barricades, but there were always U.S. Park Police to ensure, in addition to other things, that the nation's monuments and memorials are not subject to vandalism. 

The National Mall and Memorial's 330 employees are all furloughed.



glennra3
glennra3

@hattmann 

Is he whining about not being able to access an area closed down because the U.S. Congress refuses to do its job? Veterans of any war are to be respected for their service, but they are not demi-gods and they are not exempt from criticism.


Don't you think there are bigger issues here than not being able to visit a bunch of marble pillars?

BrendaDean
BrendaDean

@hattmann Actauly NO THEY CAN'T SHOW UP TO WORK - IT IS AGAINST THE LAW FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES TO GO ONTO FEDERAL PROPERTY WHEN IT IS SHUT DOWN

JohnVandertow
JohnVandertow

@larainemharrison  right but there were never barricades there before... what sense does it make to close stuff like that down where anyone can normally access it? it's plain stupidity and wasteful..tell the cops to go home or fight real crime..

BargBin
BargBin

@larainemharrison 

We live in a bipartisan world. Both sides are to blame. But to close open space memorial with bars is just a provocation or stupidity. 

glennra3
glennra3

@jeremyhall1

Public sites and parks have to be staffed for the safety of the public and to protect the monuments, otherwise what is to prevent someone from climbing on the structures and getting hurt or chiseling pieces off for souvenirs?


Over 15 million people visit Washington every year. If just 1/10th of 1% of those people vandalize a monument that is still 15,000 people causing damage to our nation's heritage.

TruthWillSetYouFree
TruthWillSetYouFree

@grape_crush No safety inspections are halted by the failure of the Senate to approve the House passed spending bills, unless the Obama administration chooses to declare them non-essential.  Safety inspections had previously been determined as essential by Office of Personnel Management.  Denying food and education for kids?  I'd have to know which programs and/or employees you're talking about.  But, since Harry Reid, D- Nevada, has said why should he care about one child, it doesn't really matter, does it?  

joyhart
joyhart

@glennra3 My father (WWII - Marine) and my brother (Vietnam - Army) are still scheduled for the Honor Flight this Saturday (Oct. 5th).  I sure hope the flight is still on, and if there are barricades at the memorial sites, I look forward to seeing video of them "knocking down" the barriers!  Thank you vets!! 

joyhart
joyhart

@glennra3 It's obvious you're not a veteran.  It's obvious your father or mother is/was not a veteran.  It's obvious you don't have a grandparent that was a veteran.  I think you're just jealous of the rest of us who can claim our fathers/mothers or grandfathers were WWII veterans!!  BTW, I was in awe when I visited the WWII Memorial.  When you visited this memorial and found it a "sterile looking monument," most likely it was because you had no emotional/familial connection.  Too bad.  Your loss. 

Simone
Simone

@glennra3  The most pathetic comment I've seen in months.  If you read the article, the part about guys hanging on just to visit the memorial, elderly people, even a dimwit would realize there is no time to waste to "rebuild" something you find more attractive, when I'm sure you didn't fight for it.  The only whiner I see is you, complaining that it isn't "about you," the people who fought for this country, it's only about your pathetic aesthetic whims.  Absolutely pathetic.  

jsfox
jsfox

@mary.waterton Mary please tell me you are not this dense. It was made perfectly clear  why this whole exercise by the Republicans was absurd. Obamacare is already funded. The shut down does not effect Obamacare. 


And if you have to whine go whine to the Republicans, who shut down these memorials because they are fixated on a duly passed piece of legislation, found to be constitutional by the Supreme Court, and litigated again at the ballot box in '12. Legislation that will help millions of people including you.

larainemharrison
larainemharrison

@BargBin We as taxpayers own and fund the national forests, museums, parks, and so on.  They're our heritage and if you relied on the mass of people to fund them, we'd be out of luck.  Think before you post.

TruthWillSetYouFree
TruthWillSetYouFree

@glennra3 @hattmann Yes,there is a bigger issue.  How about the refusal of the Senate, led by Harry Reid - D - Nevada - to pass the funding bills sent over from the House, including one for the National Park Service and another for the National Institutes of Health.  After all, as Sen. Reid said, why should he care about one child being refused entry into an NIH program, there are 1,100 employees at Nellis Air Force Base on furlough and how can the House pick and choose what to fund.  (Of course, that ignores the responsibility of a budget, the entire purpose of which is to pick and choose what to fund.  But, Sen Reid has also refused to allow a budget to be approved by the Senate for the entirety of the Obama administration.  At least Sen Reid is consistent on not deciding what to spend on, just spending on everything without limits ~sarc).

grape_crush
grape_crush

 @BargBin @larainemharrison > We live in a bipartisan world.

No, we do not, if you've been really paying attention.

> Both sides are to blame. 

Nope. One side wants the government to help people be able to see a doctor, the other side is willing to torch the institution of government and crash the global economy if the government helps people see a doctor.

One side fought bitterly to enact a law while the other side is trying to nullify a law they can't repeal by holding government funding hostage if they don't get their way.

> I am not a fan of TP, but they represent people and we have to respect it...

No, we do not.

larainemharrison
larainemharrison

@BargBin @larainemharrison No, sometimes it's not both sides.  Just like a man who beats his wife to death, sometimes the blame really does fall on one person, or, in this case, on one party.  While the Republicans are playing their schoolyard games, America is suffering.  I really wish the TPs would take their ball and go home.  And not come back until they grow up.

glennra3
glennra3

@joyhart @glennra3 


All of that is obvious to you, eh?


Both of my grandfathers served during WWII. My mother's father was killed in the war. My father's brother was a marine, in-country during the war in Vietnam, and my brother and my mother's husband were both in the army.


However, as long as we are making assumptions about each other what is obvious to me is that you have no real awareness of history. If you did you would know that the monument that left you in such awe was done in the style of Albert Speer, Hitler's architect. 


That is what is really too bad, considering for whom this monument was built. 

glennra3
glennra3

@Simone @glennra3

What is pathetic is the way anything that has to do with the military has somehow become sacred and beyond comment or criticism in this country. 


It would be pathetic if these guys were really just "hanging on" to see a pile of marble, but I don't believe that. They didn't fight for a monument and their service isn't diminished by whether it is open, closed, or not there at all.


Stop genuflecting before the uniform and gain some perspective.



BargBin
BargBin

@larainemharrison @BargBin 

There are great private museums in US and the world, as well as government operated museums solicit charitable contribution that provide a significant portion of museums budget. Not only tax money are the source for museums, but charity as well. Do your research.

At least for  shutdown charitable money could be used. But bureaucrats decided differently.

TruthWillSetYouFree
TruthWillSetYouFree

@larainemharrison @BargBin So laraine, it's clear you don't respect Sen Reid?  

Most House Republicans were elected on a platform of repealing the Affordable Care Act.  Therefore, they are fulfilling the promise they made to their constituents.  The Obama administration keeps on providing 'exemptions' to those aspects of the Affordable Care Act that it decides hurt Obama and Democrat supporters.  The House is merely, with the one year delay of the so-called individual mandate, to provide the same 'exemption' to all Americans that the Obama administration offers to favored groups.  

Of course, as George Orwell suggested, 'some pigs are more equal than others', giving all Americans the same rights as favored groups and Congressional staffers is anathema to the Obama administration and the Senate.  We're not as good as the Democrats, otherwise, there would be no opposition to administration proposals. (~sarc).

JohnVandertow
JohnVandertow

@larainemharrison @BargBin  tell that to the democrips then WTF man??? stop being so partisan over politicians that can care less about our vets. the dems shut this site down not the repubs. both sides put this country in 18trillion worth of DEBT

BargBin
BargBin

@larainemharrison @BargBin 

If it is a law that is set in stone, why some provisions were already changed or delayed? Why some exemptions were issued? 

Any person is entitled to have or not to have a respect for an official. I am talking about respecting people that elected an official. I may disagree with their choice, but I respect the constitutional rights of others.

larainemharrison
larainemharrison

@BargBin @larainemharrison Obamacare is a law that was validated by the Supreme Court.  It's subject to debate but the House tried to kill it over 40 times and it didn't work.  Continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a definition of insanity.  And, no, I don't feel that I owe respect to an elected official simply because he or she is keeping the office chair warm.

BargBin
BargBin

@larainemharrison @BargBin 

I am not a fan of TP, but they represent people and we have to respect it, as we should respect any elected official. Their job is to find a good compromise between the will of their constituency, and country as a whole.

glennra3
glennra3

@BargBin @glennra3 @larainemharrison @Simone


How do you set priorities? Well, let's see.


Yes, the government shut down will inconvenience tourist who want to visit the nation's museums and memorials. Who else will be hurt?


How about poor women and children who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)? How about people who rely on the Low Income Energy Assistance Program as winter approaches? How about veterans who already wait too long for disability claims and pensions? How about the nation's housing market and economy which could be sent back into a recession if this foolishness goes on too long?


In the scheme of things I'm not too bothered if people don't get to see a monument.




BargBin
BargBin

@glennra3 @larainemharrison @Simone 

How do you set a priority what is more or less important? And at the end, this is an open space memorial. It stays open 24*7. What is the point of barricading it? Who ever decided to do that was trying to point peoples outrage towards republicans, just for political purposes. 

glennra3
glennra3

@larainemharrison @glennra3 @Simone 


The fact that someone served in the military or fought in a war does not give them carte blanche to all monuments and memorials of past wars, anytime they want.


Or maybe former astronauts should storm the Nat'l Air and Space museum, which is also shuttered? How about artists? Shouldn't they be marching on Nat'l Art Gallery? Perhaps the nation's Indian tribes should break into the Museum of the American Indian?


This is not about veterans. In fact, it is more than a little self centered and myopic of this tiny fraction of vets to think their access to a bunch of marble pillars is more important than essential services that Americans will do without because of the government shutdown.



larainemharrison
larainemharrison

@glennra3 @larainemharrison @Simone  My father was a marine who fought in WWII and the Korean war.  No way he was a whiner, but if he were alive, I know he'd be storming the memorial regardless of whether or not he admired the aesthetics of the design.

glennra3
glennra3

@larainemharrison @glennra3 @Simone

"Are you always this angry and hateful?"


How do you propose I answer this loaded question? Perhaps you would like to know if I have stopped beating my wife, as well?


There is nothing hateful about criticism, of which you yourself have offered plenty in your comments. Nor does my emotional state (which is quite upbeat at the moment) have anything to do with my arguments.


As to your obviously disingenuous suggestion that I get help, are you making a personal offer in that regard?

larainemharrison
larainemharrison

@glennra3 @Simone Are you always this angry and hateful?  You missed the whole point of the article in your rush to tear down the monument, the vets, their service, etc.  Get some help.

BargBin
BargBin

@larainemharrison @BargBin 

What is wrong with board of directors? Is government body better? 

When it comes to a better job or not, just read about that foundation. Their materials are open, not like in our government.

BargBin
BargBin

@larainemharrison @BargBin 

You are mixing for profit business enterprise and non profit foundations. Microsoft is a corporation, but Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is not profit, and has a different goals, even the same or similar people run both of them. BMGF usually does a better job than our government.