A World War II veteran at the WWII Memorial after the Honor Flight group was let in by a Congressman. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)
WASHINGTON – A group of World War II veterans disappointed to hear the government shutdown would prevent them from visiting memorials Tuesday managed to find their way inside the barricades at their own monument.
“Every last one of them ought to be shipped to Timbuktu,” Pete Graves, one of 91 veterans who arrived on an Honor Flight Tuesday morning, said of members of Congress currently locked in a battle over Obamacare that has partially shut down government services.
This was the first trip to D.C. for the group of 80- and 90-year-olds from Mississippi. Several members of Congress arrived at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall after hearing the veterans were being prevented from entering.
Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Fla., said he moved a portion of the barricade, allowing the veterans and their families to enter the memorial.
“This is the right thing to do at the right time — to help these guys,” Nugent said.
World War II veterans and members of an Honor Flight that arrived in the nation’s capital Tuesday morning enter the barricaded WWII Memorial. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)
Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota was among the members of Congress who made their way down to the monument after receiving panicked emails.
Bachman says it was “pure joy” when the veterans were allowed in because they had traveled so far. She says members of Congress plan to continue coming down to the memorial to ensure veterans can visit.
James McLaughlin, chairman of the Honor Flight Network, contacted WTOP Tuesday and noted that 918 veterans are scheduled to visit between Tuesday and Sunday.
An additional 2,642 are expected by the end of October.
Park spokeswoman Carol Johnson says the service didn’t want to keep veterans out, but the agency was directed to close all memorials.
She says officials are seeking guidance on what to do as more veterans are expected later Tuesday and during the week.
Stars and Stripes reporter Leo Shane III tweeted that even though Park Police were at the memorial, no one was making any attempt to remove the veterans: