They faced the Nazis head on and survived, so some police tape and steel barriers were not going to be enough to stop a group of Iowa World War II veterans from visiting their memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Thanks to a little help from Republican officials, including Iowa’s Steve King, the Story County Honor Flight’s visit to the nation’s capital was not a wasted trip.
Due to the government shutdown that went into effect Tuesday morning, national parks were closed. Congressman King knew the Story County Freedom Flight, carrying 150 Iowa veterans, was on its way to the memorial. So he went down there to help in any way he could.
“There’s a time when you just know it’s the right thing,” King told reporters during a conference call. “I didn’t know what we were going to do when I went down there this morning. I just knew that to be there on the spot, I trusted that I’d know the right thing when the time came.”
A group of 90 veterans from Mississippi arrived prior to the Iowa group. Many of them in wheelchairs, the group approached the barriers blocking them from entering the park memorial that was created to honor them and their fallen comrades. Steve King knew he had to act.
According to eyewitnesses and Congressman King’s own account, he intentionally distracted a park service guard so the veterans could get past the barricades.
“Nobody would want to put a guard that likely sympathized with our veterans in a position that they didn’t want to be in, and I went over there as a diplomat to resolve the issue and while I was over there, the gate was opened,” King said.
Bagpipers arrived on the scene. Veterans followed the musicians and streamed into the memorial. It was an emotional scene for everyone there.
“There were people up along the wall who were cheering and clapping,” King recalled. “I would say that there might have been a hard enough heart somewhere, but generally speaking, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
Around 40 minutes later, the veterans from the Story County Freedom Flight arrived. They also defied the government shutdown and ventured into the closed park.
“It was one of those moving times in life,” Congressman King said. “I’ll just tell you that I probably was wiping my eyes dry for 45 minutes there this morning. It was such a good feeling to see the look on the faces of our veteran as they came in this morning.”
Everything turned out positive, but the entire scenario could have turned into a disaster. More than $90,000 were raised to pay for the veterans’ trip to our nation’s capital. For many of them, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the World War II memorial erected in their honor. The thought sickens Congressman King.
“Not supposedly having the funds to operate the government, but the funds to set up barriers and to pay extra people to guard the World War II memorial,” King said. “It just seemed bizarre to me that an open air memorial, like most of them are on the mall, all the way past the Lincoln Memorial, we’d have the resources to build a fence around it just as our World War II veterans are arriving.”
Congressman King directly his blame at one person: The commander-in-chief, President Obama.
“This is a completely spiteful act on his part,” King said. “I would have thought that locking school kids out of the White House as a protest against his idea of sequestration was about as bad as it gets, but this one takes the cake.”
The Story County Freedom Flight arrived back in Iowa late Tuesday evening. Veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars also participated in the trip.
blog comments powered by Disqus