10/3/2013 12:48:00 PM Ill. veterans see memorial despite shutdown
CHICAGO (AP) — About 90 Illinois veterans traveled to Washington on Wednesday to visit the World War II Memorial despite a government shutdown that threatened the success of the pilgrimage.
The veterans’ trip, organized by Honor Flight Chicago, was a success despite initial fears the veterans, many in their 90s, wouldn’t be allowed to view the memorial. However, that wasn’t the case. Only a banner stood in their way.
“It was easy. We just do what we always do in a war — move it aside!” Gerry Goldman said after he returned with others to Chicago’s Midway Airport.
Hundreds of people gathered at the airport to cheer the return of the veterans, whose trip to Washington began at sunrise and ended at 9 p.m. when some veterans stepped off and others were rolled off the aircraft.
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley accompanied the veterans when they visited the memorial. Durbin said the Illinois veterans had no trouble getting into the site on the National Mall, but nearby restrooms were locked because of the shutdown. It was a situation that aggravated some of the veterans.
“Yes, this is ridiculous, some of it, that we have these things that impede anybody’s right to go see things,” said World War II veteran Joe Surridge of the shutdown that closed hundreds of national parks and idled thousands of federal workers.
Veteran Johnye Scigousky had his take on what caused some anxiety during the trip.
“My feeling, today, one person wants to win all. In the past, both sides of the aisle would come together,” he said. “They should be reminded of what they were sent there to do.”