WASHINGTON, D.C. (10/09/2013) – Despite the government shutdown, Northwest Ohio World War II veterans walked past barricades and faced chilly weather to visit the memorial that was built in their honor.
Even though the park was supposed to be closed, park rangers were there to greet a bus load of 70 veterans as they walked into the memorial, reminding visitors they were allowed to exercise their First Amendment right to assemble peacefully.
"Welcome to your memorial. Thanks for your service," a park ranger said to the dozens of veterans as they walked by.
"After all, it's their day," said David Chilson, a board member of the Northwest Ohio Honor Flight.
"We're honoring them, recognizing them. Thanking them for their service to the country. This is a day that they so richly deserve."
A surprise honorary Silver Star Medal was presented to one veteran and it brought tears to the eyes of his family members.
Many veterans, bound to their wheelchairs, were wheeled around the memorial by their family members who accompanied them on the trip. They spent their time taking pictures and remembering the memory of their friends that were lost during the war.
"A lot of my friends didn't live to make this. And I'm very happy to be here," said Robert Benham, who said he served as an Army B-24 liberator bomber.
Despite the political volleying between Democrats and Republicans, Benham said he was keeping politics out of his trip.
"I have an opinion but no comment," he said.
Though veterans might not be talking politics during the trip, local Ohio lawmakers are.
"In the [House of Representatives] we even passed legislation to make sure that our museums and parks, everything stay open and our memorials and we sent that to the Senate. But you know we have not had action on that yet," said Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH).
There is no action inside the Capitol, but there has been action at the memorial since last week, when the first group of veterans forcibly pushed past the gates. Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) said that their action is what kept the gates open.
"There are realities at work here. Luckily this particular site is pretty accessible," she said.
This is the last Northwest Ohio honor flight of the season.