WWII veterans from Reno tour memorial in Washington

WASHINGTON — About 40 Nevada veterans toured the World War II Memorial on Saturday morning under a sunny sky that belied the stormy partisan battles at the other end of the National Mall that have left much of the federal government shuttered.

“It scares me as to the way things are going,” said Gerry Wright, 89, of Carson City. “The word politician has become a bad word. Most of them think of their own advantage.”

Wright tears up with emotion as he recalls his younger days, when life was simpler and so many put their lives on the line for the country. He was in the Air Force and spent about a year in the Azorean islands helping to construct an air base.

“I always felt guilty that I was not in combat,” he said.

Honor Flight Nevada brought the veterans, who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, from Reno on Friday night despite the uncertainty surrounding the closure of the memorial in Washington.

National Park Service officials have closed federal parks because of the government shutdown, but they allowed Honor Flight members access based on their First Amendment right to peaceful assembly.

On Tuesday, veterans from Mississippi and Iowa were stopped from entering the expansive WWII memorial but were then allowed access with the assistance of several members of Congress.

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Nevada Reps. Mark Amodei, Joe Heck and Steven Horsford were on hand Saturday to greet the veterans.

“This is about the only thing that has been good this week,” said Heck, a Republican. “It is important that the very folks this memorial is dedicated to are able to get the opportunity to see it.”

Horsford, a Democrat, agreed: “This is a great day, an historic day, and one they deserve.”

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau reporter Peter Urban at purban@stephensmedia.com or at 202-783-1760.

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