Federal shutdown or not, the Central Missouri Honor Flight goes on.
The group - which flies World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veterans to see the memorials erected for their service in Washington, D.C. - will take 70 veterans from area counties on their planned Oct. 15 trip regardless of the shutdown over a budget stalemate in Congress continues to leave the monuments officially closed to the public.
Mary Paulsell, president of Central Missouri Honor Flight, announced her plans for the group's 25th journey in a recent press release.
"We have made a pledge to these men and women who have fought for our freedoms," she stated in the release. "Our delegation will honor our commitment and fly on Oct. 15."
The trip also includes tours of the Marine Corps and Air Force Memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.
The announcement follows headlines made by several other Honor Flight groups from Mississippi, Wisconsin and other states that went past barricades erected at the memorials to allow veterans a closer look at monuments in their recognition.
Callaway County Commissioner Doc Kritzer, a frequent Honor Flight volunteer, said though he won't be going on this trip because of a scheduling conflict, the decision to enter the monuments whether or not the shutdown was lifted was "wonderful."
"The veteran memorials are open-air and off the sidewalk," Kritzer said. "These people are so passionate about what they've done, and it's a slap in the face to these veterans who went and fought for the rights of this country."
The group of veterans, alongside 40 volunteer guardians and medical staff, will leave the Courtyard Marriott in Columbia at 2 a.m. Oct. 15 and will return at 10:45 p.m. that day. The public is invited at the hotel by 9:45 p.m. to welcome veterans off the buses with banners, flags and cheering.
Paulsell's release stated that "politics play no part" in the Honor Flight, and noted that it was only appropriate that the veterans on the trip would be given access to the memorials.
"These are men and women who took the beaches in the South Pacific and the cliffs at Normandy, then pushed back communism in Korea," Paulsell stated. "I doubt that some fencing and police tape will keep them from entering this hallowed ground. These are their memorials, and they will see them."