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Syracuse Honor Flight volunteers tear down government road block, cross barrier

Shutdown won’t deter local veterans’ visit to DC memorials

Volunteers and vets with Honor Flight Syracuse tore down a roadblock at the Iwo Jima Memorial during their trip to Washington on Saturday, Oct. 5, refusing to let a government shutdown bar them from visiting monuments to their military comrades.

Volunteers and vets with Honor Flight Syracuse tore down a roadblock at the Iwo Jima Memorial during their trip to Washington on Saturday, Oct. 5, refusing to let a government shutdown bar them from visiting monuments to their military comrades. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— “It was just overwhelming,” said Army veteran Bill Pavlus, of Skaneateles. “So many people came up to me because of my hat [that said WWII veteran] to thank me. The welcome we received here [at Reagan airport], the motorcycle escort. A 15-year-old boy came up to me to thank me. He said ‘Thank you for your service, sir.’ It just struck me as wonderful.”

“I was overwhelmed by the reception we got when we came in. I almost broke into tears,” said Pat Heagerty, an Army vet from Manlius, who taught in the Fayetteville-Manlius school district for 35 years.

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Joe Slocum, in he red shirt, an Army veteran who lives in Marcellus, walks awat from the Iwo Jima Marine Corps Memorial with his daughter Judy Fero, during the Honor Flight Syracuse visit to Washington DC on Saturday, Oct. 5. Slocum was a pigeoneer in France during the war -- he sent secret messages by pigeon.

When the Honor Flight buses arrived at the World War II Memorial on the mall, nobody knew what to expect and whether or not the memorial would be closed to visitors due to the government shutdown, as has been reported in the national news all last week. The barriers were up, and a National Park Service ranger stationed at the entrance, but the barrier was easily moved aside and the vets streamed in to their memorial, with no government official telling them to stop. The same thing occurred at the Korean and Vietnam War memorials.

At the Lincoln Memorial, however, in between the Korean and Vietnam War memorials, the barricades were set at the bottom of the steps leading up to the Grecian Temple dedicated to the Civil War president. On the barricades were signs reading, “This site is CLOSED. Do not enter.” Hundreds of visitors were standing at the barricades or on the ground in front of the memorial, shading their eyes from the sun to look up and catch a glimpse of the marble Lincoln, taking pictures with zoom lenses fully extended and lamenting their inability to walk up the steps.

That’s when Army vet Bova, who served as an MP in the European Theatre in 1945 at age 18, decided to move aside the barrier and walk up the steps to see the president he greatly admires.

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