ROCK FALLS – Veterans have waited too long to cancel their once-in-a-lifetime trip planned to the nation’s capital.
Despite the federal government shutdown, which has closed memorials in Washington, an Honor Flight scheduled for Thursday from the Quad Cities, including about 60 veterans from the Sauk Valley, will continue as scheduled, said Bob Morrison, hub director for the flight.
“We talked about [canceling], but we felt it would affect too many people,” Morrison said.
“So many of these men [many of them older than 80 years old] have waited so long for this day, that we don’t feel it would be fair to make them wait any longer,” Morrison added.
An Honor Flight from the Mississippi Gulf Coast region made headlines Tuesday when its members were initially fenced off from the World War II Memorial.
The gates were eventually opened in an informal arrangement, and the veterans were allowed to see the memorials erected in their honor.
Barriers will close off the World War II, Korean and Vietnam memorials during the shutdown, Morrison said.
The Honor Flight of the Quad Cities organization is communicating with U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, to determine which monuments in the itinerary are accessible.
That task has been difficult, said Jeff Giertz, a spokesman for Braley’s office.
“National Park Service employees who oversee these memorials already have started furloughs,” Giertz said. “We’re working to get answers.”
As for whether veterans leaving from the Quad Cities will be allowed to sidestep barriers, Giertz would not say for sure.
“My understanding is that the park police did not stop them, and that was an inspiring moment,” Giertz said. “There wasn’t a formal arrangement made. I won’t comment on if an informal arrangement can be made.”
With that said, the bus drivers in Washington and the Honor Flight organizers are prepared to make any last-minute additions or changes, Morrison said.
Memorials for Iwo Jima, the Unknown Soldier and the Air Force should be open, he said.
“We should be able to do just about everything, and if we have to add something, we can,” Morrison said. “We’ll be fine, and it will be another great, successful trip.”
Saturday's SV Weekend edition will have photos and features from Thursday's Honor Flight leaving the Quad Cities, as well as profiles of local veterans who are making the trip.