I recently had the opportunity to walk the beaches of Normandy in France, to see the bridge featured in the epic war film “Saving Private Ryan” and visit the hallowed grounds of the American Cemetery.
It was awe inspiring and a vivid reminder of the sacrifices made almost 70 years ago by the Greatest Generation.
It’s too bad that the federal government is all but declaring war against those veterans who fought and sacrificed during World War II from visiting their privately funded memorial in Washington, D.C.
The National Parks Service (NPS) – possibly acting on orders from the White House – is reinforcing barricades not only at the World War II Memorial but at other war memorials on the National Mall as well, including the World War I Memorial, the Korean War Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial.
The administration has now further escalated its mistreatment of veterans and the American public to include closing the American Cemetery in Normandy and blocking access to the roads leading to the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
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Officials say that they need to close parks and monuments throughout the country and overseas because of the shutdown – which is really a slowdown with 83 percent of the government still up-and-running – but it is likely spending more resources to close them than it has ever taken to allow the open-air sites to remain open.
Whoever at the White House or NPS gave the order needs to be held accountable for such a waste of taxpayer funds when they claim that resources have become so scarce. They cannot be trusted to properly manage our national treasures.
It is a mean-spirited, callous and petty maneuver to inflict the most pain on veterans and the American public as possible for their inability to do their jobs.
That’s our federal government for you. Thanks a lot.
Thankfully, the response to the efforts by the NPS has been bipartisan. Republican and Democratic members of Congress are all working to intervene in this egregious behavior.
Last week, I watched as lawmakers warmly greeted the veterans at the World War II Memorial during the Honor Flight program, respectfully cut a ribbon joining the barricades, moved them out of the way and escorted veterans into the site. The crowds cheered and applauded, and I’m sure many tears were shed as the veterans made their way around.
On a bipartisan, bicameral basis some legislators exercised their conscience and did the right thing.
They didn’t worry about winning or losing.
They weren’t worried about partisan messaging in the shutdown drama.
They just wanted to make sure that our nation’s veterans were treated with the respect that they deserve.
As the government slimdown continues this is a great example – however small it might be in the grand scheme of things – of how Washington should work.
Do the right thing by letting our veterans and the American public in and keeping the politics out.
Republican Pete Hoekstra is the Shillman senior fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism and the former chairman (R-Michigan) of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. He is the author of "Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya" (The Calamo Press, October 2, 2015).