WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-3) hosted members of the Franklin County Honor Flight Wednesday morning on the grounds of the World War II memorial.
The memorial has become a focal point for lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, to showcase what they say are the unfortunate consequences of the government shutdown now in its second day according to ABC News.
Following the example set on Tuesday by a group of fellow veterans from Mississippi, World War II "honor flights" from Missouri, Illinois and Michigan entered the closed World War II memorial on Wednesday, past a blockade erected because of the government shutdown.
One of those groups was the Franklin County Honor Flight.
The first busload of veterans arrived to a circus of media and members of Congress just after 11 a.m. Several members of Congress who were on hand opened the barricades, allowing the veterans access to the memorial. Since then, several hundred of them have passed through the gates.
According to the National Park Service, the memorial remains officially closed, but a statement released by the department states Honor Flight members will not be barred from entering the site.
"The Honor Flights are being granted access to the WWII memorial to conduct First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service regulations applicable to the National Mall and Memorial Parks," said National Park Service Spokeswoman Carol Johnson in a statement regarding the closure of World War II and other national memorials in DC. "This is consistent with the DOI Closure Determination and Notice issued on October 1, 2013."
“After the president’s allies in the House turned their backs on veterans and the White House threatened a veto had the funding passed, there was no way in hell I was going to let partisan politics and the administration’s new fences around the World War II Memorial stand in the way of these heroes who earned the right to visit their memorial to honor the sacrifices of their fallen friends,” said Luetkemeyer, whose late father Bill was a World War II veteran.
“These brave men faced Nazi tanks and Imperial Japanese Zeros so I don’t think they are going to be concerned about a few fences erected at the last minute by the Obama Administration.”
Franklin County is one of 13 counties that make up Luetkemeyer’s 3rd Congressional District.
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The Honor Flight from Franklin County has been able to visit all of the veterans memorial sites in Washington, D.C. today with one exception.
The Road to the Iwo Jima monument was blocked.
They have viewed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers.
The weather has been perfect. There has been a lot of media representatives at the monuments.
Jim Tayon, president of Honor Flight in Franklin County, said this is one of the best trips they've had.