Local veterans will be granted access to the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. despite the government shutdown.
The Villages Honor Flight, a chapter of the Honor Flight Network, will be flying out 25 WWII veterans Saturday on a one-day, all-expense-paid trip to visit the memorial in honor of the war they fought.
Villages Honor Flight volunteer John Driscoll said he doesn’t expect any trouble on their trip, unlike a group from Mississippi on the first day of the government shutdown.
“The first day of the shutdown, the veterans had to break into the memorial because they just tried to barricade the memorial at the entrances,” Driscoll said. “Congressmen were there to help – they realized these veterans are in their late 80′s-early 90′s. This might be the only chance they’ll ever get to do this and to deprive them of this opportunity is just unfair to them.”
Volunteers, also known as guardians, will also attend the trip to help the veterans during the experience. The veterans will return to a Welcome Home Ceremony they missed out on 70 years ago.
“When they return at night we try to give them the homecoming they never had at the end of their service,” Driscoll said. “Most of these veterans didn’t get back til late ’45 or early ’46 – so they never really had a homecoming when they came home. The country was weary, and they didn’t care about going about honoring individual soldiers as they came home.”
Police and over 20 motorcycles will escort the veterans for the last 10 miles of their trip to the Welcome Home Ceremony. A free event for the public is being held before, starting at 9:30 p.m. at the American Legion Post 347 on County Road 466 and Rolling Acres Road in Lady Lake.