Western Pa. veterans roll to D.C. to visit war memorials
WASHINGTON — They came ready for a fight, just as they did in World War II and Korea.
But the enemy was gone.
A busload of Western Pennsylvania veterans of the two wars, most in their 80s, thought they might have to storm barricaded national memorials they longed to visit just as others did during the two-week partial shutdown of the federal government.
When they arrived hours after the shutdown ended, barricades had vanished, and the approximately 40 veterans who traveled to the nation's capital early Thursday had unrestricted access to the sites. Otherwise, turnout at National Mall sites was light.
“It lets people focus on what's really important when they come here, not all the chicanery” in Congress, said Jack Daman, 87, of the North Side, a Navy veteran who served during World War II.
The National Park Service barricaded most of its sites, including war memorials, when the shutdown began Oct. 1. Park rangers furloughed during that time said they were obligated to do so but said the Constitution's right to assemble gave visitors the right to bypass the mostly lightweight barricades that resembled bicycle racks.
“I thought barricading the memorials showed no respect to veterans. I'm not saying veterans deserve special treatment, but they do deserve some respect,” said Jim Jeffries, 86, of New Brighton, who served in the Army during World War II and the Air Force during the Korean War.
Political observers described the barricades and subsequent protests over them as political theater. Park rangers did not allow a group of veterans from Mississippi past a barricade at the National World War II Memorial in a high-profile flap on the first day of the shutdown, further fanning flames — even though those veterans later were escorted into the war memorial, and people visited memorials throughout the shutdown. Hundreds of demonstrators stormed past barricades around the World War II Memorial in another protest on Sunday.
The local veterans planned to go to Washington on Oct. 1 but postponed the visit because of uncertainty surrounding the shutdown, said Lydian Fisher, 71, of Brighton in Beaver County, one of the bus trip's organizers.
The veterans rescheduled for Thursday, not knowing whether the shutdown would be resolved. A deal reached late Wednesday ended it.
“To see the way they operate down here, you really lose faith in your so-called leaders,” Daman said.
Since 2006, more than 1,600 veterans traveled from Western Pennsylvania to Washington on what was known simply as the “World War II Veterans Bus Trip.” The trip, made twice a year, is free to participants, thanks to donations.
Fisher said organizers included Korean War veterans because “we've been getting fewer and fewer calls from (World War II) veterans” because of their advancing age.
The veterans paid respects at the World War II Memorial and Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington and the Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, in Arlington, Va.
Many veterans used canes. Others used wheelchairs, with volunteers or Junior ROTC members from Ambridge Area and Beaver Area school districts pushing them. The vets included a husband and wife who met at the Pentagon and served together in the Air Force during the Korean War, Ernest Coker, 83, and his wife Ninfa, 80, of the North Side, along with two brothers who served in the Army during World War II, Elmer Glenn, 89, of Sarver and Albert Glenn, 86, of Apollo.
The World War II Memorial — a large, circular monument marked visually by 56 granite pillars, two fountains and two towering, 43-foot triumphal arches — is the newest war memorial on the National Mall. Many veterans raved about its design but said it was long overdue. It opened in 2004, almost 60 years after the war ended.
“Sixteen million Americans served in the armed forces during World War II. Only 1 million are still alive to see it today,” said Ralph Boura, 89, of Penn Township.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger says Saints game is ‘must win’
- S&P 500 logs 47th record high close for year
- Pedestrian dies in North Side accident, authorities say
- DVD reviews: ‘The Giver,’ ‘The Expendables 3’ and ‘What If’
- Penguins notebook: Bennett to miss about 2 weeks
- Steelers cornerback Taylor ready to swap earpiece for helmet
- Pirates notebook: Autographs to come at a cost at PirateFest
- Man charged with impersonating doctor for free Nemacolin stay
- Pittsburgh restaurants deliver the art of charcuterie
- Book fair to benefit North Hills School District, Make-A-Wish
- James Taylor coming to Consol on Nov. 29