Both the White House and the U.S. Department of Interior reportedly rejected a request from Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) to allow World War II veterans to visit the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C. during the partial government shutdown on Tuesday.
After they were denied an exemption, Palazzo reportedly helped the war heroes "storm" through the barricades surrounding the WWII memorial. "The veterans were visiting the memorial as part of Honor Flight, a non-profit that provides veterans free transport to the nation’s capital to visit the memorials to the wars they fought in," Charles C. Johnson writes for the Daily Caller.
Other GOP lawmakers were also in attendance to support the veterans' right to enter the memorial.
Honor Flight veterans are allowed into the World War II memorial which was closed to the public because of the government shutdown. (Image source: @LeoShane)
Palazzo told TheDC that he received a "heads up" that officials would barricade the memorial, prompting him to ask for an "exception for these heroes."
The veterans were reportedly denied and Palazzo was told by the liaison for the White House: "It's a government shutdown, what do you expect?"
However, the Mississippi Republican claims he also contacted the National Park Service, the Department of Interior and the Capitol Police in an effort to clear the way for the veterans to visit the WWII memorial as scheduled. Some of the veterans are octogenarians and/or in poor health, he explained.
The request for the veterans were rejected each time, he says.
“At first I thought it was a huge bureaucratic oversight, but having talked with the officials I can’t help but think this 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 cost anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000. How low can you get with playing politics over our nation’s veterans?"
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, second from left, performs a mock swearing in for Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington as the 113th Congress began. Credit: AP
Ace of Spades, a conservative blog, also notes that the WWII memorial is not closed at night or on weekends and many times is unattended.
"When they were informed that the Honor Flight was on the way, and that they should make one exception for the veterans of WWII and open up the artificial barriers they had erected to make a political point, they refused," the blog adds.
National Mall and Memorial parks spokeswoman Carol Johnson told CNN that "Park Service did not want to barricade these, but unfortunately we have been directed, because of the lack of appropriations, to close all facilities and grounds."
"I know that this is an open-air memorial, but we have people on staff who are CPR trained, (and) we want to make sure that we have maintenance crew to take care of any problems. What we're trying to do is protect this resource for future generations," Johnson added.
Still, there was plenty of outrage on Twitter Tuesday night: