October 13, 2013

Gov't shutdown doesn't stop North Country Honor Flight

PLATTSBURGH — The gridlock and confusion of the government shutdown did not stop the North Country Honor Flight from bringing World War II veterans to visit the memorials in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

The flight, taking off from Plattsburgh, carried 15 veterans in their 80s and 90s. Each veteran was accompanied by a volunteer guardian. The plan was to visit the World War II Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

But with the government shutdown continuing, these sites are officially closed. 

“We walked right in,” said North Country Honor Flight Director Danny Kaifetz.

At the World War II Memorial, some members of the public were also allowed in behind the group — some of them because they had First Amendment permits from the National Park Service, as did the Honor Flight group itself.

“For the past few days, it’s been blocked off to the public,” Kaifetz said.

If the Honor Flight group alone is allowed in, the opportunity for interaction with the public is lost, Kaifetz said. Thus, Kaifetz was happy to see that there were other people being allowed in at the World War II Memorial.

“It’s a beautiful part of the experience for them, having people here who want to thank them and hug them and cry with them.”

At the World War II Memorial, the North Country Honor Flight group met Congressman Bill Owens. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders sent an emissary from the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, which he chairs. Two of the veterans in the North Country group are from Vermont.

A crew from Fox News joined the North Country Honor Flight group, traveling on the bus, spending the day with them and interviewing them. 

With the trip taking place in the midst of the government shutdown, Kaifetz noted, “There is more attention on the Honor Flight than there ever has been.”

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