In a fight between the Congress and the Administration, score goes to...the WWII veterans. Depending on which side of the aisle you prefer (or whether you are inside or outside the beltway), you may have different views over what the government shutdown is about and/or means to you. Regardless of what your personal beliefs are, I hope you will take a moment to follow what I consider THE story of the day (picture and link are from www.newschannel9.com).
I have several friends who volunteer escorting the Honor Flights of WWII veterans to visit the memorial created to honor their service to our country and first learned about the potential issue through their facebook posts this morning. (The Honor Flight website is currently down, hopefully crashed by people donating money in light of today's news stories, but it is www.honorflight.org.) This organization flies veterans to see "their" memorial at no cost to the veteran. The ages of the WWII veterans makes simply "rescheduling" these visits a non-starter. The organization and its volunteers are fighting against time and are doing everything they can to get every veteran to see this memorial.
This morning, several previously scheduled flights took off for Washington, DC, with hundreds of individuals from Iowa and Mississippi unsure what type of welcome they would get. They were greeted by volunteers who have a passion for uniting these veterans and this memorial, and barricades indicating that the open-air memorial was closed due to the shutdown.
In his book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw says about the men and women of this generation, "At a time in their lives when their days and nights should have been filled with innocent adventure, love, and the lessons of the workaday world, they were fighting in the most primitive conditions possible across the bloodied landscape of France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, and the coral islands of the Pacific. They answered the call to save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled, instruments of conquest in the hands of fascist maniacs. They faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest. They succeeded on every front. They won the war; they saved the world. They came home to joyous and short-lived celebrations and immediately began the task of rebuilding their lives and the world they wanted." Now do you really think just because these veterans are of advanced age, they were going to look at the barricade, read the sign, and turn around and go home?
I am guessing there will be politicians who use this morning's event as a "why my side is right" or "look what I did for the veterans," but I refuse to participate in that discussion. What happened today happened because these veterans have never and will never step down from a fight with a bully who is trying to use them as a pawn. That is why Tom Brokaw described them as "the greatest generation any society has ever produced," and that is why this morning, hundreds of veterans from Iowa and Mississippi got to see, up close and personal, the memorial that was created to honor their service. Special thank yous go out to the men and women of the National Park Service who put up such small barriers. It should be noted that the newschannel9 story quotes a spokeswoman for the Park Service as saying they did not want to keep the veterans out but were ordered to close all memorials. The National Park Service employees were clearly between a rock and a hard place and did everything they could in light of the existing circumstance (including allowing the "storming" of the memorial to be a peaceful and respectful one).
When I read about what these veterans gave up, endured, and fought against to create the world they wanted, I am ashamed at what we have done with the legacy they left us. I thank them for the reminder today, that you can always take a stand for what you believe in. I hope that they can continue to be a symbol of what can be accomplished when we work together for a common (positive) goal.
Who is a member of the greatest generation that you have learned something from and what did you learn?