First, I would like to thank those of you who served in the Armed Forces for your service to this country. America owes you a debt of gratitude for your willingness to leave family, friends, and the comforts of home in order to ensure that those comforts are attainable to those who remain behind. As a veteran myself, I know that honor does not only belong to those who see battle – but also to those who miss birthday parties, ballet recitals, or the birth of a child in order to safeguard the lives and natural rights of others – many of whom they will never meet.
But there is a dignity earned by those who look war in the face and return home to everyday life. There is a respect that they deserve above and beyond just the simple recognition of their existence. And there is a code that is honored among veterans that when you meet a brother-in-arms, you thank him for sharing your burden with a nod, a handshake, a simple “thank you,” or a tear. That code was violated today by the National Park Service at the direction of the White House, and no one challenged that office.
Veterans of World War II stepped off their Honor Flight with the expectation of visiting the World War II Memorial, many for the first time in their lives, and nearly all of them for the last time. Knowing about the shutdown, the group called ahead to request an exception and be allowed to see the memorial anyway – a request that was denied, again, by the White House. Imagine their surprise when, upon arrival, they learned that the open air memorial – which has remained open through previous government shutdowns – was barricaded. After denying special permission for their visit, furloughed NPS workers were called back to work to prevent a few men in their 80’s from paying tribute to their friends and brothers-in-arms. I’m sure that you are aware that several members of Congress helped the group get around the NPS workers and ensured that their visit was allowed. But that’s not my point.
My point is that no one – in either party - stood on the House or Senate Floor and said, “No, Sir!” No one demanded that pettiness be set aside in order to pay respects to men who deserve not only our respect, but our admiration and thanks as well. No one pointed out just how childish and disrespectful it was to use those men as pawns in a political game, and no one had the guts to call on the rest of Congress to override the President for doing it.
Your political party does not matter. Your position on the current government shutdown does not matter. You, whether or not you are a veteran of the Armed Services, should know how reprehensible an act it is to trivialize the service of others. And you should be willing to stand up and call out anyone who does that, regardless of party or position. Refusal to do so amounts to little more than cowardice.