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Assemblyman says closed monuments are injustice to vets

Posted 9 October 2013 at 12:00 am

Provided photo – State Assemblyman Steve Hawley is pictured at a monument in Washington, D.C. with local veterans as part of a Patriot Trip.

Editor:

Petty, party-line politics have halted business in Washington D.C., leaving many Americans with a distrust and disinterest in government at all levels. It is truly disheartening to see such issues casting a pall on the institution of public service, and it will take time to rebuild the trust that is eroding as we speak. There is an aspect of the federal government shutdown where no time can be wasted, however: the re-opening of the monuments and memorials dedicated to the honorable men and women who have sacrificed for our country.

Over the last six years, I have had the honor of leading an annual Patriot Trip with local veterans to Washington D.C., visiting the sites and venues dedicated to their service. Throughout the course of the trip, more than 650 veterans and family members have embarked on this emotional journey, which has featured many of the monuments and memorials currently shut down due to gridlock within the federal government.

This year’s trip included veterans from the World War II, Korean and Vietnam War eras who put their lives on the line in defense of our freedom and way of life. I cannot imagine showing up with my bus full of veterans and having to tell them their government would not allow them to experience the structures specifically meant to recognize their personal sacrifice.

The mere fact that open-air venues would be closed off to the public illustrates just how far the government has gone astray. While departments, employees and entities have been deemed “non-essential” and had their operations put on hold, it’s actually taking effort to keep veterans away from these destinations. Conversely, the groups of veterans who have broken through the barricades at the World War II memorial show the indomitable spirit of our servicemen and women. As always, these veterans have shown that strength in one’s convictions and a willingness to let actions speak louder than words will always win the day. This is a lesson from which many of the people responsible for the government shutdown could stand to learn.

As Ranking Minority Member on the Assembly Committee on Veterans Affairs, I understand that government must step up to the plate to recognize and honor the sacrifice made by our courageous heroes. If government can’t get that right, then I can’t blame the American public for being disheartened. I urge the National Park Service to right this wrong and re-open these monuments and memorials at once, not only to honor our veterans, but to show that government is capable of fulfilling its most basic and essential duties.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley
139th District