In response to the government banning visitors to war memorials in Washington, veteran’s groups staged demonstrations at the World War II Memorial in the Nation’s Capital on Sunday morning, October 13. Similar rallies were held in cities around the country and I attended a rally in West Hollywood, California.
Now age 88, I was in the Navy during World War II and the Korean War. Therefore, I figured I had the credentials to wheel myself over to meet the other veterans. Altogether, the Sunday morning experience was an enjoyable one. The site for the rally in Southern California was the Sal Guarriello Veterans’ Memorial in West Hollywood. It’s in a small city park just a short stroll (pushing my walker) from my apartment.
I showed up at the location at nine a.m. Sunday to participate. About a dozen other vets arrived, but no politicians nor other orators. We spent the time together discussing politics and spinning war stories that ranged from Normandy, Iwo Jima, Inchon, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. I was sad to see no news crews covered the event, just a photographer from a local paper.
The concern that seemed to be shared by everyone I spoke to was that the war memorials should not be subject to the shutdown. And everyone was especially concerned about instances of veterans not being able to visit monuments to their fallen brothers. As a veteran, I too share these feelings and am quite disgusted with both political parties for getting us into this embarrassing situation. Although I wasn’t one of the veterans who visited a monument or memorial only to find myself locked out, I can relate to their feelings of rage. The consensus among the people I spoke with was that the war memorials and related sites of national significance should be exempt from the shutdown, like other priority functions of the government.
I am especially troubled by the closure of high profile monuments like the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC and the use of armed guards deliberately preventing veterans and their families from visiting places that had been open and unguarded until the federal shutdown early in October. Also closed to visitors are the Iwo Jima Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, National Mall, National Zoo and, of course, the White House. Much more extensive, some among hundreds of other popular sites that are also closed, include the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian, many National Parks, the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor and Independence Square in Philadelphia.
Perhaps public demand for access to these public sites will push our representatives in Washington to come to a compromise that will enable the government to resume its normal operation.