At the Korean War Memorial, a group of veterans from Puerto Rico also moved barricades aside in order to lay a wreath. The veterans represented members of the 65th Army regiment, which fought in Korea.
Anthony Mele, president of the regiment’s honor task force, said a Park Police officer admonished the group that the site was closed and then “literally turned his face and walked away” as the men moved the barriers in order to enter.
“We went on the other side of the barriers like good soldiers should, and we laid our wreath there,” Mele said with a smile. “We were told that all permits were rescinded. I thought they said all permits were canceled except ours.”
Thomas Lopez, 84, said he was honored to be able to visit the memorial and remember fellow members of the 65th regiment.
“This is a shame to me,” he said of the bypassed barricades. “We’re part of this country, and we fought for this country, and it doesn’t seem necessary.”
National Park Service security personnel speak on their phones after World War II veterans broke through a barricade with police tape that prevented access to the World War II Memorial on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.
CARLOS BONGIOANNI/STARS AND STRIPES
World War veterans on an October 1, 2013 Honor Flight from Mississippi were confronted with barricades at the National World War II Memorial, which was closed due to the government shutdown.
LEO SHANE III/STARS AND STRIPES
WASHINGTON — Wheelchair-bound elderly veterans pushed aside barricades to tour the World War II Memorial Tuesday morning, in defiance of the government shutdown which closed all of the memorials in the nation’s capital.
The four bus loads of veterans — visiting from Mississippi as part of a once-in-a-lifetime Honor Flight tour — ignored National Park Police instructions not to enter the site as lawmakers and tourists cheered them on.
“We didn’t come this far not to get in,” one veteran proclaimed.
The scene was both emotional and comical at once. After it was clear they had lost control of the situation, Park Police officials stood aside, telling press that they had “asked for guidance on how to respond” to the breach of security.
As 80-something veterans slowly walked around the massive war memorial, Park Police stood quietly to the side, advising other tourists that the site was technically still closed. But they made no moves to stop the wishes of the war heroes.