WASHINGTON — The 91 veterans on an Honor Flight from Mississippi weren't going to be denied the chance to see the memorial built for them.
Arriving on four charter buses at Washington's National Mall Tuesday morning on the first day of a federal government shutdown, the vets found the World War II monument barricaded and its fountain idle. A sign on the fence read "Because of the Federal Government SHUTDOWN, All National Parks Are CLOSED."
Honor Flights fly veterans in and out the same day, meaning for most this was their final opportunity to see the memorial. With a bagpipe escort, the veterans ignored the barriers and walked or were pushed in wheelchairs to see the column for Mississippi. Park Police stood by, watching.
"This is ridiculous," said Tom Bratner, 89, who served as a Seabee during the liberation of Guam in 1944. "I hate the Republicans. They're pulling all kinds of stuff trying to hold hostage things like this."
The first partial government shutdown in 17 years shuttered national parks and government offices from coast to coast. It also sent hundreds of thousands of federal workers home after they reported to work to secure files, post closed signs on their doors and change voice-mail messages to inform callers they wouldn't be working until the budget impasse was solved.
Jeanette Joyner, an Army budget analyst who survived the 2001 terrorist attack on the Pentagon, left her office today after getting a furlough notice, while bracing for the uncertainty to come. Joyner, 45, was one of an estimated 400,000 civilian defense workers put on furlough.
Absorbing the pain of a lost paycheck won't come easy, she said.
"My office took a direct hit," she said of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in which American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. "I crawled out of a bathroom. If I can survive 9/11 and come back to this building, I can survive this."