Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R) and other members of Congress arrived at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to help veterans bypass the barricades set up in front of the World War II memorial. The National Mall, National Parks, and all non-essential federal agencies were closed Tuesday as a result of the federal government shut down that occurred after Congress failed to agree on a plan to fund the federal government.
Bachmann posted photos of herself with veterans on Tuesday with a caption that read: "Tremendous honor to meet these WWII veterans and help them gain access to their memorial." Additionally, Bachmann told The Blaze that she had been on a morning walk when she heard that groups of veterans were waiting to enter the World War II memorial but had been turned away.
"I ran over as quick as I could […] and I couldn't believe my eyes," Bachmann told The Blaze. "There were all these veterans standing here behind police tape and they are prevented from going in to see the memorial."
The Republican Congresswoman then went on to say that she and eight to 12 fellow members of Congress cut through the police tape at the memorial and escorted the veterans in. "You should have seen these veterans. They had smiles from ear to ear. They were thrilled." Bachmann added to the Huffington Post that "every day there's a shutdown, we're going to be here to make sure the veterans get in. There'll be some members of Congress here to make sure they get in."
The veterans did successfully see the National Mall's World War II memorial on Tuesday. About 90 veterans hailing from Mississippi as part of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight trip to D.C. entered the memorial. They had planned their trip to Washington D.C. far in advance and weren't expecting the federal government to shut down and effectively close all national monuments and parks.
According to Stars and Stripes, an independent military news source, the veterans were led into the memorial after lawmakers helped to topple metal fences barricading the entrance. A bagpiper on hand for the event played as veterans, many wheelchair-bound, followed him into the memorial. Witnesses to the event began to cheer and applaud as the veterans walked into the memorial.
"This just means so much to me," Alex "Lou" Pitalo, an Army veteran who served in the pacific in WWII, told Stars and Stripes. "I waited 70 years to get a welcome like this. And to get to see this and to have all those people clapping […] I'm just so happy. This was amazing."
National Park officials said Tuesday that they did not want to actively keep veterans from seeing the National Mall memorials, but they had been ordered to close the memorials as a result of the government shut down. Carol Johnson, National Park Service spokeswoman, told the Huffington Post that the National Park Service is "looking about how to deal with this in the future."
The federal government shut down on Tuesday after members of Congress were unable to reach a resolution to continue funding the federal government. The disagreement is between the Democrat-run Senate and the Republican-controlled House regarding the new health care plan, also known as "Obamacare." Republicans argue that key aspects of the health care plan must be delayed, while Democrats argue that the health care plan has already been made law and should not be modified. This is the first government shutdown in 17 years.