WASHINGTON — The government shutdown won't prevent more than 80 Oklahoma World War II veterans from traveling here to see their monument next week, as the carefully planned and expensive trip is too far along to cancel, a state representative said Thursday.
“We're very concerned about it and we're monitoring the circumstances hourly,” said state Rep. Gary Banz, who has been organizing Honor Flight trips for World War II veterans for four years.
U.S. Rep. James Lankford's office reported late Thursday that the House had passed five spending bills, including one to keep the National Park Service running. The measures now go to the Senate.
Banz said people from all over the country are heading to Oklahoma to serve as guides for the veterans on Tuesday's trip; many are family members who have purchased nonrefundable tickets, he said.
Banz, his wife and numerous other volunteers have been planning the details for months. This is the fourth Honor Flight from Oklahoma this year; 82 veterans are planning to come to Washington, and 21 of them are 90 or older. The total cost of the trip — paid with donations — is $100,000, Banz said.
The World War II Memorial on the National Mall may soon double as a symbol of the current shutdown because of widely reported scenes of veterans on Honor Flights confronting barricades this week and walking — or being wheeled — past them, with help from members of Congress.
Many lawmakers have reacted angrily to the National Park Service's closure of the memorial. Park Service employees have been allowing Honor Flight visitors through the barricades, but the fountain — a key feature of the memorial — has been turned off, and the restrooms have been closed.
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They deserve to see their own memorial.
U.S. Rep. James Lankford,,