“For that one moment in time, it was about the World War II veterans, not about politics,” Honor Flight Chicago CEO Mary Pettinato said.
The bipartisan battle in Washington led to a partial government shut down this week of all non-essential offices. National museums and memorials, including the World War II Memorial, were closed as a result.
Honor Flight Chicago carried out its planned flight today despite the shut down. Pettinato was concerned about how the day would go, but the veterans were ready to fight for their rights and get arrested, if necessary, she said, adding there’s nothing like being around feisty 95-year-olds.
But, “it went great at the Memorial,” she said. What the National Park Service decided to do was allow the WWII veterans to express their First Amendment Right to assemble. “They did not put up barricades, instead they allowed the veterans and their companies to be in the Memorial,” Pettinato said.
The general public was not allowed to enter, Pettinato said.
WWII veterans walked down a procession of people cheering for them, she said.
Today’s flight included veterans and volunteers from Lake County. Pettinato, who is also the group’s co-founder and janitor, accompanied the veterans and their companions.
“The only time we got stuck was in a jam of politicians,” Pettinato said. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk were present along with various congressmen.
WWII veterans were telling the politicians “to go back and make some votes,” she said laughing, adding the day was beautiful.
Kirk, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy Reserve, released a statement on his website. “These soldiers gave everything in fighting for our freedom and the thought that they would not be allowed into their memorial because of the partisan divide in Washington is beyond the pale. It is time for all parties, the President of the United States, House Republicans and Senate Democrats to come together and find a compromise so we can re-open our government and ensure our veterans never again have to cross a barrier to their memorials in our nation's capital,” he said in the release.
The Honor Flight will return to the area around 8:45 p.m. tonight on Southwest Airlines Flight 405 at Chicago Midway International Airport.