Honor Flights continue for war veterans

Thursday, October 3, 2013 | 5:52 p.m. CDT; updated 9:58 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 3, 2013

COLUMBIA —When war memorials closed Tuesday after the government stopped funding the National Park Service, the Honor Flight Network feared veterans would be barred from the sites.

"We were initially very concerned about the impact on our flights," Mary Paulsell, president of the Central Missouri Honor Flight, said in an email on Thursday.

The Central Missouri Honor Flight carries about 70 veterans and 40 volunteers on its day-trip flights to the nation's capital. With the organization's 25th flight scheduled for Oct. 15 and another planned for Nov. 5, closed memorials were not part of the plan, Paulsell said.

Wednesday brought peace of mind when National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson, sent a Tweet announcing that veterans will be granted access to national war memorials despite the government shutdown.

Her announcement came after veterans with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Honor Flight program bypassed signs Tuesday to visit the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"When other Honor Flights went ahead with their plans to see the memorials, I think it impressed upon the Park Service the importance of these missions," Paulsell said.

Paulsell does not anticipate any further difficulties with accessing war memorials during the remainder of the government shutdown.

"I think the media and citizen response to this is simply further evidence of the high regard in which we all hold those who have served this nation," Paulsell said.

Flights will continue to carry veterans from World War II and the Korean War to national memorials. The organization plans to take Vietnam veterans to the capital in the future, Paulsell said.

The Central Missouri Honor Flight will return from its Oct. 15 trip at 10:30 p.m. Residents are invited to welcome home veterans at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Columbia.

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