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World War II vets visit D.C. memorial without hassle

Partial government shutdown doesn't hinder Oklahoma Honor Flights trip where friends, family and members of Congress greet greatest generation.
by Chris Casteel Modified: October 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm •  Published: October 8, 2013

Just a few days ago, U.S. Air Force Capt. E.J. Mason was deployed in Yemen, while his grandfather, James, was preparing to visit the World War II Memorial here.

As the elder Mason toured the memorial on Tuesday as part of the Oklahoma Honor Flights program, he walked right past his grandson, who had seen him and hidden.

“I just walked up on him and surprised him and gave him his picture from his old platoon,” the Air Force captain said.

“I'm so blessed to have a grandfather who taught me the stuff he did and showed me the value of service to our country.”

James Mason, of Spencer, 85, worked at an Army prison for captured soldiers in Bremerhaven, Germany. Standing near the Oklahoma pillar on a cool and cloudy day, Mason said it had never crossed his mind that he might visit the memorial, but his family got him on the Honor Flights list.

E.J. Mason said he had been planning since July to surprise his grandfather at the memorial.

“Then I heard about the government shutdowns and furloughs and all that other stuff so I didn't quite know how it was going to work out,” he said.

It all worked out fine for the 15th Oklahoma Honor Flights trip, which included 83 veterans and their “guardians,” often friends or family who accompany the veterans on a whirlwind tour that begins in Oklahoma early in the morning and ends there late the same night.

On the eighth day of the partial government shutdown, the World War II Memorial is one of the only sites on the National Mall that can be accessed by the public. The National Park Service had tried barricading it last week when the shutdown began, but veterans on an Honor Flight from Mississippi broke through with the help of some congressmen.

Since then, the administration, well aware of the public relations disaster it was courting, has allowed World War II veterans entry to the memorial, though the bathrooms are closed and the fountain isn't operating.

State Rep. Gary Banz, of Midwest City, who helped create the Oklahoma Honor Flights program, said Tuesday that he had received a permit from the park service guaranteeing access to the World War II and Korean memorials on the mall.

The shutdown wasn't an issue at two other stops on the itinerary, Arlington National Cemetery and the Air Force Memorial, he said.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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I'm so blessed to have a grandfather who taught me the stuff he did and showed me the value of service to our country.”

U.S. Air Force

Capt. E.J. Mason,
Shown at right with his grandfather, James Mason

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