Honor Flight Central Missouri will brave the partial government shutdown gripping Washington, D.C. to take veterans of World War II and the Korean War there to visit the national memorials.
The organization, run mostly through volunteer efforts, will celebrate its 25th flight to Washington on Tuesday.
About 70 veterans, most of whom are from mid-Missouri, will fly out of St. Louis early Tuesday morning to visit national memorials currently shuttered to most of the public.
Although they may need to remove the barriers themselves, chapter president Mary Paulsell said the shutdown won't affect the group, since they have permission to visit the memorials. She said she does not anticipate any problems with law enforcement upon their arrival to Washington.
"It's a little interesting, but certainly not impossible. These men and women have lived long, productive lives," Paulsell said. "They just see this as another great adventure."
"I think they realize they fought to preserve a system of government that's going to have good times and bad times. They stand by it, it's still the best system on Earth," Paulsell said.
Honor Flight member Shelly Becker said a lot goes into planning the logistics of the trips to Washington including making sure veterans are in good health before they go, having sufficient food and snacks for the trip, deciding which memorials to visit in what order, getting everyone there and back safely, and making sure Honor Flight can afford to pay for the trips.
"They're going to be experiencing the trip of a lifetime," Becker said. "They're going to be experiencing so many joys. The wonderment they're going to have in Washington, and the fellowship they'll have with other veterans there,"
This Honor Flight in particular represents a landmark for the Central Missouri chapter. Paulsell said she never imagined the day when the group would hold its 25th flight to Washington, but she says the benefit the trips have brought to all veterans they've taken is extremely fulfilling.
"There are so many of the veterans that tell us that this 'puts the period at the end of the sentence' for them," Paulsell said. "I had one veteran tell me, this made my life make sense."