Hours after a feud looked certain to blow up over access to Washington's World War II Memorial, the federal government backed down and said veterans would be allowed in.
The news came in a Twitter message from Carol Johnson, the National Mall's public information officer.
The climb down was the result of a groundswell of complaints joined by a growing contingent of lawmakers who met the vets at the memorial site Wednesday morning to ensure a dignified visit. There, the scene was emotional as one veteran played Taps and most stood in rapt attention, BuzzFeed's Benny Johnson tweeted
Hundreds of veterans are due to fly to Washington to visit the memorial, which was barricaded Tuesday because of the government shutdown. About 90 veterans who turned up Tuesday got access only after Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo of Mississippi helped to cut police tape and move concrete barriers.
The scene was expected to be repeated Wednesday, before the Park Service climb down.
Palazzo, a Gulf War marine veteran, had planned to sponsor legislation that would have allowed access during the shutdown, saying the Obama administration was using politics against men who deserve to be honored, not pushed aside.
"At first I thought it was a huge bureaucratic oversight, but having talked with officials, I can't help but think it was politically motivated," Palazzo told the Daily Caller
"Honor Flights, which bring WWII veterans to the nation's memorials, are planned a year in advance and can cost anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000. How low can you get with playing politics over our nation's veterans?"
Palazzo added, "This is an open-air memorial that the public has 24-7 access to under normal circumstances – even when Park Service personnel are present. It actually requires more effort and expense to shut out these veterans from their memorial than it would to simply let them through. My office has been in touch with NPS officials and the administration to try to resolve this issue."
Reps. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and Mike Pompeo of Kansas were among a growing contingent of lawmakers on site at the memorial Wednesday morning. Pompeo put his thoughts on Twitter.
Honor Flight's board Chairman Jim McLaughlin told Newsmax on Tuesday
that about 3,500 vets are slated to take free flights to Washington in October alone, creating scheduling concerns as lawmakers seek compromise to end a government shutdown that has shuttered national parks nationwide.
For many, he said, the trips mark their last chance to see the monuments, and they deserve proper dignity on their trips.
The Lincoln Memorial is also closed to public visitors, even as some have argued that it costs the Park Service more to close it than to keep it open, given that it is an open-air monument and not a site to be toured, legalinsurrection.com reports
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