The elderly veterans piled off their buses at the World War II Memorial a little after 11 on Tuesday morning. Some eased into wheelchairs. Others leaned on canes. All had come to pay homage to their famous crusade and fallen comrades of long ago.
Veterans of Omaha Beach, Okinawa and the Italian campaign, they arrived only to face metal barricades and signs announcing that the memorial was closed because of the federal shutdown.
Gentle men in blue baseball caps and red T-shirts, they said it was emotional just to be there — and a shame to have come all the way from their homes in Mississippi for this.
Suddenly, in the bright sunshine, cheers and applause erupted. The barricades had been moved — by whom it was not clear. And the column of veterans poured through the gap in the lines and into the memorial.
It was a chaotic scene from the first day of the shutdown: frail-looking men — at least one of whom hadn’t been to Washington since the war — led by jubilant Republican Congress members and television crews as a bagpiper played “Shenandoah.”
Bystanders clapped and shouted, “Thank you for your service!”
No Park Police officers were immediately in evidence in the scrum.