Shutdown can't ground Honor Flight Austin's mission


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on October 11, 2013 at 6:35 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 14 at 1:41 PM

AUSTIN -- At Austin's airport Friday morning, dozens of World War II veterans anxiously awaited an honor flight to the nation's capital.

"I'm very excited about looking at the World War II Memorial, and then the other ones too," said World War II veteran and former Army sergeant Harrison Wright.

With the memorial closed last week as part of the government shutdown resulting from Congress' failure to pass a key budget measure, Honor Flight Austin's scheduled trip almost didn't take off. Yet while organizers and veterans uneasily watched the unfolding stalemate in Washington, Wright says he didn't lose much sleep.

"I just told the Lord, I just if it's meant for me to go, I'll go," he told KVUE Friday.

"We were looking at possibly canceling our flight until the spring," said Honor Flight Austin Chairman Allen Bergeron. After an Honor Flight group from the Mississippi Gulf Coast bypassed barricades in front of the memorial last Tuesday, the National Park Service began to make roundabout exceptions for visiting veterans, though not without a catch.

"They are letting us in as protesters," said Bergeron. "We have to bring a permit. All the bathrooms are locked up, so they brought in port-o-johns for us. But we're going to make the best of it. We're going to make it as though there is no shutdown. We're going to make it special for these World War II veterans."

With the shutdown almost two weeks old, Americans are growing increasingly frustrated with Congress' inability to agree on a measure to fund the government and end the shutdown. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows 60 percent say every member should be fired.

"I think the common sentiment from everybody is get back to work," one Austin resident told KVUE Friday. Meanwhile as members of America's Greatest Generation arrive in the capital this weekend, the divided Congress may do well to heed their example and advice.

"The way I look at it, we should quit worrying about Democrats and Republicans and work as a nation together," said Wright. "I like to quote what President Kennedy said one time, 'Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.' That's what we ought to be doing."