Despite a government shutdown resulting in closed national monuments and parks, a group of Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight Veterans pushed over barricades and toured the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday morning.
They were joined by family, friends and members of Congress – including Reps. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) - who helped the elderly veterans pass through temporary gates to access the memorial.
“Maybe eight to twelve of us members…we just escorted the
veterans in,” Bachmann said.
“We got the heads up that they will be barricaded and specifically asked for an exception for these heroes,” Palazzo told the Daily Caller. “We were denied and told: ‘It’s a government shutdown, what do you expect?’ when we contacted the liaison for the White House.”
The Republican senator, who is a Gulf War Marine veteran, stressed that Honor Flights are planned a year in advance, saying that the US administration’s decision to close the monument was “politically motivated.”
“This is an open-air memorial that the public has 24/7 access to under normal circumstances — even when Park Service personnel aren’t present,” he said in the statement. “It actually requires more effort and expense to shut out these veterans from their Memorial than it would to simply let them through.”
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight was established in 2011 to help groups of veterans fly to Washington free of charge and provide tours of National Mall memorials.
Similar Honor Flights scheduled for October have been notified that the memorial will remain closed. ABC News reported that a group of 100 veterans from Chicago is expected to arrive for a tour on Wednesday.
In a letter to the president released Monday, Rep. Palazzo asked that the monument remain open to the public:
"It would be truly devastating to our veterans that travel great lengths to share this experience with family and friends and see a piece of their own history," he wrote. "I request that you immediately instruct the Department of Interior and National Service to ensure that veterans are not denied access to monuments on the National Mall in the case of a government shutdown. It is the very least we can do for our Greatest Generation who sacrificed so much on behalf of our country."
The WWII Memorial was closed once again on Tuesday afternoon and will remain closed in the absence of a funding plan, according to National Mall and Memorial Parks Communications Officer Carol Johnson.
Sightseers throughout the National Mall expressed frustration at the inconvenience of the shutdown, as world-famous sites such as the Smithsonian, the National Air and Space Museum, and many other attractions closed their doors.
“We drove our kids from Gilbert, Arizona thousands of miles across the country, hoping to show them the national treasures,” one tourist told RT.
“Instead we’re learning about government,” another member
of the family added.