Vets Vs. Obama

Rich Galen

10/14/2013 12:01:00 AM - Rich Galen
Anyone old enough to remember Viet Nam can remember how the country felt toward the man and women who were sent to Southeast Asia to prosecute that war. They were treated like [as this is a family column] garbage.

We have discussed before how, in the National Guard during those days, it was suggested that we wear civilian clothes to and from drills.

Of all the dumb things the federal government has done during this partial shut down was to have shut down national parks, and national monuments. Some of the national monuments that have been shut down are the memorials to war dead in Washington, DC.

We have, within walking distance from one another, memorials to the Korean and Viet Nam wars and the World War II Memorial.

These three are crucial because there are still men and women alive who fought in those wars. There are no living veterans of World War I.

VE - Victory in Europe Day - was May 8, 1945; Japan signed the surrender documents ending the war in the Pacific on September 2, 1945.

An American who might have sneaked into the service at, say, 15 years of age would be 83 today. We're quickly running out of WWII veterans. In fact, the Veterans Administration says that these men and women are dying at the rate of 640 per day; so those that want to visit the memorial to their war are running out of time.

There is a program known as "Honor Flights" that began in 2005 as a small program to fly some WWII vets to Washington to visit the World War II Memorial.

The program has grown to the point that, according to HonorFlight.org this month there are flights scheduled for 25 out of the 31 available days.

That's why, when President Barack Obama shut down the war memorials - especially in Washington, DC and especially the WW II memorial, it struck such a chord both with those who have served under arms and those who, as Will Rogers once put it, have "stood on the curb and clapped as they've gone by."

I would love to say that Barack Obama didn't know that part of the shutdown of national parks would involve these memorials. But I don't think that's true.

Mr. Obama shut down White House tours when the Sequester began to demonstrate, in the most public possible manner, the effects of that activity. I am willing to be proved wrong, but I believe that the President knew full well the National Park Service would be shutting off access to America's most sacred monuments along the National Mall.

On October 1, the first day of the new fiscal year and the first day of the shutdown, ABC News reported:

"A group of 92 Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight Veterans refused to let a government shutdown stop them from entering the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., this morning."

One vet was reported to have shouted at Park Policemen "Normandy was closed when we got there, too."

Whether that's true or apocryphal doesn't really matter. It's the way veterans today think. Since World War II we have veterans of many military actions. Most of them don't have a memorial to their service nor to their comrades' sacrifice.

Yesterday veterans from around the country converged on Washington to force open the war memorials as well as such iconic sights as the Lincoln Memorial.

The Park Police, just doing what they are instructed to do, largely allowed the demonstrators to move barricades and hold their events. Some people brought Confederate flags which, at best, is antithetical to the effort, but they didn't ask my advice. Also antithetical was the omnipresence of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) whose demands that Republicans in the House and Senate tie funding the government to de-funding ObamaCare is largely responsible for this mess, but he didn't ask my advice, either.

The broader point, though, is that American veterans of military service were not jeered and were not subject to the shouts and taunts of angry mobs.

They made their point: President Obama shutting down national monuments is as foolish as Sen. Cruz demanding the GOP shut down ObamaCare.

Members of the House and Senate are often foolish. We expect better of our President.