Korean War veteran Edward Bottge visits the World War II memorial on Veterans Day as he pays his respect to soldiers killed in the war November 11, 2004 in Washington, DC. The memorial opened to the public earlier this year. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight will escort 91 World War II veterans from the Gulf Coast to the World War II Memorial on Tuesday morning, regardless of whether the government is open or closed, says Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., who will be there to greet them.
If the government shuts down, the National Park Service will erect barricades around the memorials on the National Mall and close the two streets that flank it, NPS spokeswoman Carol Johnson said. The Park Service won't have the money to staff the memorials if the government shuts down, she said.
"It's a huge disservice to our World War II veterans, to whom we owe so much," Palazzo said. "For them to step off the bus and be met with Park Service personnel and barricades, it's heartbreaking. And it makes me fighting mad."
For many of the veterans, who range in age from 84 to 98, it is their first trip to Washington, Palazzo said. Veterans groups from 10 other states are scheduled to visit the memorial over the next week, he said.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see the memorial erected in their honor," he said.
Palazzo sent a letter Monday to President Obama and made phone calls to the National Park Service about access to the memorials. He said he doesn't understand why the federal government must restrict access to an open-air park.
"Why would they spend the time and effort to barricade something that's generally open to the public day and night?" he said. "They are going to have to spend extra money just to keep people out."