In such heightened times of bitter partisanship and extreme disorder within the federal government, it’s easy to lose sight of certain things that are truly important. We’re fixated on the nation’s budget and new health care law, and a case of tunnel vision has somewhat skewed our priorities.
However, a group of persistent veterans provided a breath of fresh air last week when they refused to let the government shutdown affect their visit to the National World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. An Honor Flight group comprised of Iowa and Mississippi WWII veterans – with the help of a few members of Congress – pushed past the security guards and barricades Oct. 1 after the government closure temporarily shuttered the monument’s doors. No one interfered with the bunch, and they were able to visit the memorial built in their honor peacefully without tourists or other hassles.
It must have been a heart-warming scene watching nearly 200 veterans in their 80s and 90s stream into the empty memorial. Some had walkers and canes, others were in wheel chairs. It would have taken a lot of nerve to deny these brave Americans entrance into the monument, and a tip of the hat is necessary to the Honor Flight assistants and security guards who stood up (and aside) for the veterans during a situation beyond their control.
We like to gripe about our legislators, especially in times like these. However, a degree of gratitude should be extended to those that assisted in getting these vets in to the monument. Obviously, the benefit for the Congressmen was twofold: help these men in to the memorial and look good doing it. Even so, the event provided us a brief respite from all the monotonous bickering spewing from the capitol during these past few weeks. Our legislators aren’t always the callous policy-driven grouches they make themselves out to be, and last Tuesday’s development proved they actually care about things other than battling their opposition.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the commotion of the shutdown. Some people are greatly affected, while others remain relatively untouched. However, it’s stories like this one that help bring context to the situation as a whole. The government’s fingers touch all facets of our everyday lives – be it our national parks, federal agencies or other services. There’s a lot of things people don’t think are beneficial or even worth funding, and it’s obvious some fat could be trimmed. However, completely shutting down is by no way the proper method to operate a functioning country. These vets experienced that firsthand, but it’s fair to say they earned the right to ignore any sort of lockdown at a memorial constructed to celebrate their service.
The Honor Flight is one of the most noble projects of recent memory. The Greatest Generation is aging, and we’re losing more and more each year. It’s obvious many of them wouldn’t have gotten to see Washington’s breath-taking memorials commending them and others who’ve served without the program’s efforts. Congressional gridlock and a government shutdown shouldn’t stop our country’s best and bravest from visiting these national monuments, and thanks to some stubborn vets and persistent politians, it didn’t.
Amidst all the legislative chaos and partisan divide, it seems there’s still some common sense and sympathetic hearts left in Washington D.C. after all.