Local veterans lament canceling trip to visit war memorials in Washington
Jerry Fisher shot his wife a look when the nightly news flashed images of aging veterans breaching barricades closing off the National World War II Memorial.
“You better drop it, buddy,” she fired back.
But the report on Tuesday about World War II veterans refusing to allow the federal government shutdown to keep them from visiting the Washington memorial honoring their sacrifice landed like a gut punch.
“We should have been there,” said Fisher, 70, of Brighton in Beaver County, a Vietnam-era veteran who with his wife organizes free bus trips for Western Pennsylvania veterans to the memorial.
Since 2006, more than 1,600 veterans have traveled to Washington as part of what's unofficially called the “WWII Memorial Vets Bus Trip,” Fisher said. The memorial opened in 2004.
Forty more were slated to go on Tuesday until the trip was postponed because of the shutdown. Fisher said he regretted canceling it, but even more so when he saw the news footage.
It told the story of a group of 92 veterans from Mississippi who flew to Washington to visit memorials for World War II and other wars as well as Arlington National Cemetery. Instead of being deterred by National Park Service barricades blocking their access, they marched through them with the help of several Republican lawmakers.
Veterans groups from Illinois, Michigan and Missouri did the same on Wednesday with help from lawmakers of both parties.
The National Park Service reversed the closure of the World War II Memorial and will allow veterans to visit as a free-speech right.
“We would have been there on the front line,” Fisher said. “I wouldn't have waited for the congressmen. I would have moved those barricades myself.”
Several area World War II veterans, though slowed by age, said they would have done the same.
“If I had enough strength, I would have moved them,” said Clarence “Code” Gomberg, 91, of Stanton Heights. “I think they should have more damn respect for veterans.”
Gomberg visited the memorial last year. Joseph Folino has been there twice. Both fought in the Battle of the Bulge.
“I'd have raised hell like everybody else,” said Folino, 92, of Jeannette. “It's a slap in the face to those who gave their lives and those who sacrificed. I made it back, but a lot of my buddies didn't. Is this the thanks they deserve?”
The federal government on Tuesday furloughed 800,000 employees as a cost-saving measure until Congress passes a spending bill. National parks and federal facilities are closed around the country.
Though not a goal of the political wrangling, the closing of the World War II Memorial was an unintended consequence, said Michael Kraus, curator of the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland.
“We're seeing the waning days of the World War II veterans. That's the sad part,” Kraus said. “Now they've become the iconic symbol of (shutdown) nonsense.”
Of the 16 million who served during World War II, about 1.2 million are still alive, according to the Veterans' Administration. An average of more than 600 die each day.
One veteran who was to have gone on this week's trip died on Monday, Fisher said. He said he wants to schedule a trip for next week.
James Jeffries reserved a seat on the trip that was canceled. Though he has gone twice before, he said he looks forward to seeing the memorial again.
“It's good to get back and see all those GIs,” said Jeffries, 86, of New Brighton, who served in the Pacific. “When they go again, if there's room for me, I'll go.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh’s bike sharing service starts off healthy
- Waivers granted for Garden Theater block development
- Baldwin students take in film on Nobel Peace Prize winner’s activism for girls, education
- Wilkinsburg minister raided for drugs and guns, charged with 18 felonies
- Newsmaker: Sanford Asher
- Pittsburgh zoo receives $9M gift — largest ever — from Mellon Foundation
- Pittsburgh International Airport to focus on attracting new airlines, increasing facility’s usage
- Founder of Operation Safety Net in Pittsburgh named one of CNN’s 2015 Top 10 Heroes
- Suit seeks $5M from McKeesport authority
- Shaler man charged in death of girl, 6, not prosecuted in repeated alcohol cases
- Trial scheduled in beating of black man at T station