Honor Flight WW II Veterans visit the WWII Memorial despite a government shutdown. (Photo April Havens)
Honor Flight veterans don't let barricades stop them at World War II Memorial
U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, Sen. Roger Wicker and other lawmakers from around the country met Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight's World War II veterans this morning and moved the National Park Service barricades to let them into their memorial.
A bagpipe processional led the congressmen and veterans to the Mississippi section of the memorial, where veteran Donald Quinn laid the wreath with the help of Palazzo. The barricades were erected in light of the government shutdown, which was prompted after lawmakers failed to reach a funding bill agreement last night.
"We cannot deprive our veterans of coming here," Palazzo said of moving the barricades. "This is their day."
Palazzo said 10 other Honor Flight groups from all over the nation will be coming to D.C. this week, so he and the other congressmen "took an informal vote" to move the barricade.
"Sometime it's better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission," he said with a smile.
"This is the best civil disobedience we've seen in Washington in a while," Congressman Bill Huizenga, of Michigan, added.
As the Mississippi veterans left the memorial to board their buses, a Freedom Flight group of veterans for Iowa arrived. A parks service employee was stationed near the open barricade and told visitors the memorial was closed, but the public continued to pour in. Police officers also arrived on site.
Veteran Robert Meredith of Wiggins said, "I thought I was going to have to stand back when we first got here. I feel extremely lucky. This is really nice, a great honor."
Veteran Lem McCoy agreed.
"I'm thinking what a beautiful tribute this is," he said. McCoy was surprised by his son, Dillard McCoy, who came to D.C. to see the sites with his father.
"That's the real treat," the elder McCoy said.
When the 91 veterans arrived at Reagan National Airport earlier today, they were met with great applause and live jazz music. Like on previous trips, the jetway was also decorated to welcome the veterans.
Several veterans wiped tears from their eyes because of the warm welcome, while others appeared in shock of the crowd that had gathered to cheer and wave their American flags.
"For some reason, I just feel like royalty," said Navy and Air Force veteran Jim Ferencak, of Pascagoula, as he boarded his tour bus.
Originally published by Gulflive.com. All rights reserved.