Obama vs. the Veterans

The government has been shut down since October 1st and President Obama has decided to close Washington by making life as inconvenient as possible. He did this before with the Sequestration when he would not permit any White House tours. Instead of understanding that he should work for the best interests of Americans, helping them wherever possible, he has done just the opposite. It appears he sees this as a game where he wants to win at all costs with the clear loser the American people. In response there is the possibility of a new rally, "Million Vet March On the Memorials" that will take place on October 13th. American Thinker decided to use the World War II Memorial fiasco to point out the president's uncaring ways and how he tried to use veterans as political pawns.

Last Tuesday a group of WWII veterans from Mississippi, as part of the "Honor Flights" Program, was scheduled to visit their memorial in Washington DC. Honor Flight represents America's pride in honoring its veterans for their sacrifices. They pay for the veterans' trip to Washington so they can reflect at their memorials.

Since the beginning of the government shutdown, the White House and the Department of the Interior have both rejected a request to assure that the memorial remained open for the veterans. In fact, veterans were told that if they decided to attend arrests would be made. Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss) came to their rescue. He first tried to reason with this administration, but got nowhere. He explained that the $90,000 cost was nonrefundable and that these veterans, in their 90s, might not have another chance to see their memorial. He then sent a letter wondering why an open-air monument that is untended throughout the day and is open 24/7, 365 days a year would be closed. Instead of compromising, the administration decided to put up barriers and yellow police tape barring entry, as well as sending his office an email stating, "the government is shut down what do you expect."

The congressman told American Thinker he cannot explain the logic, since the cost of procuring the barriers, transporting them, the labor involved, and having guards posted probably exceeded the cost of keeping the monument open. He took a personal interest since he is also a veteran, in his case of the Gulf War, and in the past has met and greeted the Honor Flight participants to thank them for their service, sacrifice, and courage. "At first I thought this was just a bureaucratic oversight, but soon realized it's petty politics. It made no sense since the administration had to go through an extra effort to keep them out. For these individuals to be turned away from a monument erected in their honor is un-American. I was not going to stand for it." What he did was displace some of the barriers so the veterans could get through.

A veteran who was there, Bob Hunter, agreed and felt that "it was terrible for me to be barred entry from my own memorial. I think they are trying to punish everyone because no one wants ObamaCare. It was a shame we first had to look at it across a fence. I really appreciate what our representatives did to allow us to see it. Although it would have been a much more enjoyable experience if they had not stopped the fountain from working."

Unfortunately, the administration tried to continue its callous stance when the next day it tried to bar entry to the Chicago Honor Flight World War II veterans. But the Park Service decided to allow them to exercise their First Amendment rights of Assembly and permitted them to attend. Mary Pettinato, Honor Flight Chicago CEO, told American Thinker the group wanted to go, insisting, "We stormed the eaches of Normandy and saw our buddies blown away. We are not going to be bothered by barricades. Bring it on." She also said that Park Services employees should not be blamed since many sympathized with the veterans and were saddened that the administration was making them enforce the policy. One employee sarcastically said they were forced to protect a memorial from those who wanted to see it.

Since only the veterans and their families were permitted in, she wanted to share their experience with fellow Americans. "Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill), a twenty-year Navy veteran, who had a stroke one year ago, came out to greet us in his wheelchair. He stood up to shake our veterans hands and lost his balance. His aides pulled him back into his wheelchair. The veterans then stopped their walk of the memorial and one by one they waited in line to shake his hand. He and everyone else were crying. This was truly a powerful event since the memorial allows these veterans to say their good-byes to those who served with them. Normally we have a Marine color guard with someone singing the National Anthem. We made our own color guard and this time instead of just listening everyone sang the Star Spangled Banner."

This incident demonstrates that the government shutdown is no longer about issues, but is just about politics. The Obama administration is trying to maximize the pain for Americans. It has become evident that this president is all about ego and spitefulness, not concern. As everyone interviewed noted, when it comes to honoring America's veterans it should be bipartisan.

The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews, author interviews, and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

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