Park Service Relents On Honor Flight Visits To National Mall

Honor Flight 2

After yesterday’s incident in which World War II veterans visiting the National Mall, with the apparent help of some unnamed individuals, essentially dismantled the barricades separating them from the World War II Memorial, the National Park Service has decided that enforcing vague and confusing shutdown rules was less important than creating what would obviously have been a PR disaster:

WASHINGTON — World War II vets are allowed back in their war memorial now, shutdown or no shutdown.

A day after hundreds of tourist veterans took over the closed down World War II Memorial in the heart of the Nation’s Capital, the United States Park Police announced that planned Honor Flight visits to the monument are considered “First Amendment activities,” which are allowed regardless of the government’s operating status.

The news came at the same times as several hundred veterans from Missouri and Kansas roamed the memorial, in defiance of federal orders that the site was not open to the public. It ended some — but not all — of the circus atmosphere at the somber monument, which pays tribute to the 16 million troops who served in that war.

The memorial has been closed since midnight Tuesday morning because of the government shutdown resulting from Congress’ failure to pass a budget plan to start the new fiscal year.

Early Wednesday, Honor Flight organizers told reporters that the veterans would again be touring the site, regardless what the federal rules were. Planning for each once-in-a-lifetime veterans tour takes months to organize and tens of thousands of dollars in donations.

“We know this isn’t the park service’s fault, but we also know no one is going to arrest a World War II vet for visiting his memorial,” said Jeff Miller, co-founder of the Honor Flight Network.

“We don’t want this to become politicized. But we’ve made a habit of not letting our veterans down.”

So when the veterans arrived, they were greeted by supporters waving miniature American flags and lawmakers thanking them for their service.

(…)

Park officials said the new “First Amendment activity” distinction would be in place for all future Honor Flight visits to the site, although they could not say whether it carried for other monuments as well.

In the end, the definitions and exceptions meant little to the visiting veterans, who simply wanted to tour the memorial.

Don Coleman, an 88-year-old Navy veteran who lived his whole civilian life in Missouri, said he was worried when he boarded a plane Wednesday morning that he might not get to see the memorial, even though he knew veterans the day before had been successful. He smiled as he slowly walked from the Pacific tower to the Atlantic side, where his home state’s name was etched.

“It’s just such an everlasting impression, a part of our lives that I hadn’t gotten to see yet,” he said. “I was worried this would all be mixed up. But everything just turned out wonderful.”

Under the circumstances, this would seem like a mind-numbingly obvious solution but, given the nature of bureaucracy, it’s not surprising that the initial response to the shutdown would lead the NPS to the initial response of the rather dumb move of putting up barriers in front of something like the World War II Memorial, which is completely open to the public. The idea that they’d prevent access to a group of veterans who just want to see the Memorial was kind of silly, which is likely one reason why even yesterday the Park Police basically stood to the side and let the men and their families do their thing. Obviously, overnight, someone higher up the food chain that they needed to formulate a policy that didn’t make them look like complete idiots. Now, if only our elected leaders could figure out how to do that.

FILED UNDER: Bureaucracy, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. NickTamere says:

    I”m not sure why you’re surprised that this is the policy. For one DC recently had a bout of vandalism where someone covered several landmarks with green paint, and two, this is the exact same thing that happened back in 1995-96. Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, etc.. all were shut and visitors prevented from entering. NATIONAL PARKS ARE CLOSED DURING A SHUTDOWN. This is the law. If you don’t like it, change the law.

  2. David M says:

    @NickTamere:

    Or, you know. just don’t shut down the government. The GOP owns this and every other inconvenience.

  3. John Peabody says:

    And here, in the first two comments, we see the effects of a polarized electorate. I’m moving to Fredonia.

  4. David M says:

    @John Peabody:

    That’s the problem. The two parties are not the same here, and not making that clear is actively helping the GOP.

    Are the Democrats asking for anything similar to repealing Obamacare in the CR? Not even close, as the CR continues the funding at sequester levels, something they don’t agree with. Only one party is shutting down the government when they don’t get their way.

  5. Paul L. says:

    @NickTamere:
    WWII vets see how government behaves when it faces irrelevance

    The barricading of the World War II Memorial has now become the most visible incident in this case — and to be clear, it’s not a “closing” because there’s no such thing as “closing an open-air stone memorial in the middle of the National Mall. People walk past and through this memorial unaccompanied at all hours of the day and night. (And really, if they’re going to close that, why aren’t they closing the entire National Mall?)

    This is about the fact that a lot of people are coming to see the WWII Memorial, and the Administration wishes to hurt them.
    Even funnier it costs more to close off the World War II Memorial then to just leave it open.
    I waiting for this to blamed on “rogue employees”.

  6. walt moffett says:

    @John Peabody:

    The Duchy of Grand Fenwick sounds good too.

  7. Just Me says:

    The park services “they might need CPR” excuse was also bogus-at least as it applies to Honor Flights. Most of the guardians who volunteer to escort the veterans are trained medical personnel-doctors, nurses, EMTs etc pretty sure they are better equipped to deal with a medical emergency than this park service person trained to use CPR.

  8. wr says:

    @Paul L.: “Even funnier it costs more to close off the World War II Memorial then to just leave it open.”

    Yes, and they should leave the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress open, too, even though there are no employees there. What could possibly go wrong? After all, I’m sure you’d love to explain to us how all government workers are just useless parasites stealing your tax dollars.

  9. bill says:

    @David M: yet they’ve offered to negotiate and fund several other agencies- but the dems want all or nothing it seems?

  10. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Hmmmm……

    “Park Service Relents…”

    hmmmm….

    re·lent /riˈlent/ verb 1. abandon or mitigate a harsh intention or cruel treatment.

    So…

    What you imply here is that the park service specifically intended harsh and cruel treatment, but somehow overcame this nefarious planned action.

    The Parks Service had it in for some Vets visiting Washington?

    Is that what happened?

    Really?

    Isn’t it more a case of a group of shortsighted dunderheads, led by a Canadian American, decided to make life more difficult for 300 million people?

    My my… “Relents”.

    What a spin.

    Not as bad as some out there (folks that think that the President himself sent “Barry-cades”), but a spin none-the-less.

    And, what does the Parks Service, trip organizers themselves say?

    Dick Ring, who formerly served as a Associate Director of the National Parks Service in Washington D.C., shot down complaints that the monuments and national parks have been unfairly closed during this shutdown.

    I think that’s nonsense,” Ring told TPM on Wednesday. “I mean, the national parks are the poster child for what happens when you shut down federal programs because they’re highly popular and highly visible so the effects of them are very easy to point to quickly but the effect of a government wide shutdown is pretty wide ranging from agency to agency and it gets progressively worse as it goes on. ”

    After the National Park Service opened up the World War II Memorial to veterans, Jeff Miller, one of the founders of the Honor Flight Network veterans group, said the service had “bent over backwards” to make sure veterans would have access to the park.

    “The Park Service they have been so compassionate, they have done everything they could,” Miller said according to The Washington Post.

    Perspective. It works better if you get above the fray.

  11. Gustopher says:

    But, will they open up Gettysburg?

  12. David M says:

    @bill:

    yet [the GOP has] offered to negotiate and fund several other agencies- but the dems want all or nothing it seems?

    The Democratic position is this: Pass the 6 week CR at sequester (GOP) funding levels and then go into conference for the FY 2014 budget.

    The GOP is unwilling to take that deal, or allow it come up for a vote. Their offers of negotiation are meaningless, as there’s no point to negotiating anything in the 6 week CR, and they refuse to enter negotiations on the entire yearly budget. The GOP offers are not serious proposals.

  13. Midwestern Dad says:

    I think this is a reasonable solution for these WW II vets but the people who designed the memorial and maintain it; are almost certainly furloughed. Many of the vets are in wheel chairs. The people who developed the accessibility standards; who enforce them here and in schools; hospitols; etc. Are furloughed.

  14. Kari Q says:

    @David M:

    Or, as Judd Legum put it:

    Can I burn down your house?
    No
    Just the 2nd floor?
    No
    Garage?
    No
    Let’s talk about what I can burn down.
    No
    YOU AREN’T COMPROMISING!

  15. Paul L. says:

    @wr:

    Smithsonian and the Library of Congress open, too, even though there are no employees there.

    I would guess that the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress are not open air and have 24 hour security. But who knows with the Obama regime.

    I’m sure you’d love to explain to us how all government workers are just useless parasites stealing your tax dollars.

    I’ll bet you would defend police (government workers) who sodomize with a broomstick Innocent suspects arrested because they invoked their (4th and 5th) constitutional rights.

  16. al-Ameda says:

    “We know this isn’t the park service’s fault, but we also know no one is going to arrest a World War II vet for visiting his memorial,” said Jeff Miller, co-founder of the Honor Flight Network.
    “We don’t want this to become politicized. But we’ve made a habit of not letting our veterans down.”

    Hahahahahahahahaha …

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @Paul L.:

    Obama regime.

    Yeah, sort of like “un-American Republican terrorists” who want to shut down government and cause a default on American debt securities. But I don’t want to imply that the House Republican delegation and Canadian-Cuban-American Senator Ted Cruz are “terrorists” or “un-American,” because that would be wrong.

  18. wr says:

    @Paul L.: “I’ll bet you would defend police (government workers) who sodomize with a broomstick Innocent suspects arrested because they invoked their (4th and 5th) constitutional rights. ”

    What I find really amazing is that in any conversation with a Teahadist, it takes about two exchanges to get to their fundamental panic over homosexual rape — no matter what the subject is or how distant from anything related to that fear.

    Yes, Paul, the fact that I believe we have a legal and moral obligation to fund the government means that I spend my life obsessing over a decades-old atrocity committed by some members of the NYPD.

    Now you’d better go sit tight to make sure no one slips anything up there!

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: Yes, and they should leave the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress open, too, even though there are no employees there. What could possibly go wrong? After all, I’m sure you’d love to explain to us how all government workers are just useless parasites stealing your tax dollars.

    To elaborate on the earlier point, the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress have these things around them called walls and doors with locks, so shutting them down is pretty easy. But the World War II Memorial is outside, unattended for hours at a time, and open to anyone at any time. So it took more effort to close it down than it would to just continue to do nothing.

    Oh, and it’s now official: I have both a box of rocks and a bag of hammers who are smarter than you are.

  20. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    I have both a box of rocks and a bag of hammers who are smarter than you are.

    This is coming from a man who could not beat a bowl of soup in a game of checkers.

  21. bill says:

    @David M: see, it takes 2 to negotiate. maybe obama’s still embarrassed about the whole syria thing…and needs to show some balls?
    and spending more money to shutter “open air” monuments is just more brilliance on display.

  22. anjin-san says:

    @Paul L.

    Since you have such contempt for government workers, I am sure you will forgo calling the police or fire departments the next time you have someone kicking in your door or the house is on fire. A freeborn man like you can handle these things on his own.

  23. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: This is coming from a man who could not beat a bowl of soup in a game of checkers.

    Look, I told you before: that game was rigged.

    The soup got help from the crackers.

  24. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Since you have such contempt for government workers, I am sure you will forgo calling the police or fire departments the next time you have someone kicking in your door or the house is on fire. A freeborn man like you can handle these things on his own.

    But only if the police or fire bring a social worker, a poultry inspector, three union representatives, five file clerks, a Womyn’s Studies professor from a state college, the FDA’s SWAT team, seventeen staff lawyers, an Ergonomics Consultant, a Fine Art Curator, three spokespeople, a public relations specialist, two IT guys, and an Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of Paper Clips.

    And before you protest the state college professor… the vast, vast majority of police officers and firefighters are employed at the state and local levels. We’re talking about federal employees here.

  25. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    But only if the police or fire bring a social worker

    Hey asshole.

    My kid is mentally ill. The emotional and financial toll of this cannot be imagined by someone who has not gone though it. We have spent a significant amount of our retirement money on his care. I spend an hour and a half a day taking care of him, seven days a week.

    You know who has helped us more than anyone else? His terribly overworked social worker. (Private charity? Nowhere to be seen) His social worker helped get his disability straightened out. He found him a place to live that works for him. He takes him to doctor appointments when I can’t. He helps make sure he gets his meds. He talks me down on the really bad days. Without him our kid might be dead, homeless, in jail. Instead, he has a reasonable quality of life.

    He is a government worker, God love him.

    Do you have any other clever comments to make?

  26. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: So, your response to being caught saying something stupid (police and fire are directly affected by the federal “shutdown”) is to get all bent out of shape and try to play the victim card? That is turning out to be your signature move.

    I’m not even certain I believe your ever-convenient personal circumstances that you use to rationalize getting all hissy in these discussions, but I’ll answer them with a long-standing observation: the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”

    And, while you’re at it, bite me.

    (Cue annie’s next tantrum about his dental problems and my casual remark is A Gross Insult Beyond The Pale Of Civilization…)

  27. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Hey asshole.

    I happen to have lost a very close friend to untreated rectal cancer, and I deeply resent your using that term as an epithet. He suffered a great deal, and I still have bad memories about it. So show a little humanity yourself, and think about just what harm your words can cause.

  28. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    But back to the subject at hand, the NPS has apparently restored the fencing blocking off the WWII memorial — and now the pieces are wired together.

    They’re going to make this shutdown hurt, dammit, and they don’t care how much it costs and how hard they have to work to make it hurt.

  29. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    Sticking with asshole I see. Well, it’s what you are good at.

    saying something stupid (police and fire are directly affected by the federal “shutdown”)

    And still making up positions for other people.

  30. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: You certainly implied that police and fire were affected by the shutdown, and they’re not.

    And don’t you have another victim card to play? I’ve gotten fairly used to your whining and faux outrage over imagined slights…

  31. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    I’m curious, how does it feel to go though life as the human equivalent of a cockroach?

  32. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: I only wish I was as indestructible as a cockroach. Alas, I’m way, way too mortal and fragile, and definitely won’t survive a nuclear explosion.

    I’m also nowhere near as prolific as a cockroach, or as proportionally strong. Or fast.

    In fact, making me think of all the ways a cockroach is superior to me is depressing me, and that’s very cruel and thoughtless and mean of you. You’ve totally depressed me and ruined my day, and I hope you have enough humanity in you to at least feel bad about that.

    If nothing else, you could at least stop talking about me, and finding new victim cards to play, and actually address the topic at hand… how the Obama administration is doing all it can to make the shutdown as painful as possible, even if it means spending more money than not doing anything would cost.

    Alternately, you could find another relative I’ve slighted and whine about that. Might I suggest you peruse the experiences of Juan Epstein and Maxwell Klinger for inspiration?

  33. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    You must go through life in a lot of pain to take obvious pleasure in saying things like that. I suppose knowing that when you wake up tomorrow, you will still be you could do that to someone.

  34. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: Dude, I routinely deal with wr talking about how I live in my mother’s basement, when she’s been dead for over 20 years. I brush aside truly vile insults and imprecations on a nigh-daily basis here. And I’m supposed to be mortified because a couple of totally casual comments not intended on any kind of personal basis hurt your widdle feewings?

    You come across as someone desperate to take offense, and seizing on the slightest opportunity to claim to be a victim to my vile, brutal bullying. You’re giving me power over your emotional state that, quite frankly, I don’t want.

    So grow a pair, dude.

  35. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    As predicted, you woke up this morning, and you are still you. Sucks, don’t it?

  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @anjin-san: At least I didn’t wake up a whiny little… well, I’m sure you’ve heard the rest of the phrase many times before.

    Then again, maybe not. This “you hurt my feewings, you big meanie” schtick seems relatively new to you. In that case, get used to hearing it.