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Editor's column: Police tape at the Memorial

A Korean War vet says there is no way to justify why the shutdown shut down anything related to veterans.

October 12, 2013
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

National parks in this country closed down last week because there is no federal budget in place. So what, you say?

In a way, the closing of our national parks isn't a big deal when you think of all the other offices that have been shuttered and vital services that have been halted.

But the closing of our national parks has some major collateral damage. Since the National Park Service oversees the World War II Memorial in Washington, that land is closed off to visitors as well.

This isn't just some park with trees and trails and crowded gift shops full of postcards, over-priced trinkets and T-shirts. This is the national park of all national parks.

And it's barricaded. There's police tape surrounding it. POLICE TAPE! Yah, seems appropriate. If you call what has happened because of the shutdown a crime, then D.C. would be the crime scene.

So here we have World War II vets who fought on the beaches of Normandy and in the Battle of the Bulge denied what could be one last visit to the sacred site that honors them for their dedication and sacrifice.

We don't have a word in the English lexicon that defines this insanity.

Not only that, but the $100,000 payments to families of fallen U.S. troops were put on hold because of the shutdown. That's amazing. The government actually was able to take a nightmarish situation for these families and make it worse. Apparently, the president himself didn't even know death benefits had been suspended until this week - hard to believe considering it's the Department of Defense that makes the payments. On Wednesday, a charity bailed Congress out by stepping to the plate to get benefits to the families. That, however, didn't stop the Senate from passing a saving-face bill a day later to restore the death benefits. At least that allowed Senate members to wipe some egg off their faces.

But that's not end of the story. It has been reported that nearly 4 million veterans will not get disability compensation next month if the shutdown drags into late October, and pension payments to surviving spouses and dependents will be stopped.

Kind of makes you want to throw up, doesn't it?

Another slap in the face? Try a punch in the gut. From our own government.

George Holcomb is about as proud of an American as they come. The Marshall resident voluntarily served during the Korean War because he "felt obligated" to and ended up in Germany. He had four brothers who served in World War II, one of whom was killed in action. Holcomb, probably like so many other veterans, can't fathom the idea of an unaccessible WWII Memorial.

"They have people, guards out there, that came out to keep people away," he said of the memorial. "If they're paying them to keep people out, why not pay them to allow them access to this?"

Good question.

Holcomb is also literally at a loss for words when talking about families and troops being denied military benefits.

"How can you justify that?" he asks. "I don't know what term I can use to describe how I feel about that. There's no urgency here."

Holcomb, who believes many politicians have lost their sense of patriotism - or maybe they just misplaced it like a set of keys - wanted to keep politics out of our interview; he said he's neither a Republican nor a Democrat. And while he's no historian, he does have strong feelings about how much authority a president has when in comes to going to war in relation to the War Powers Act, originally put into place 1941, less than two weeks after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. (Oh, the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor closed down, too, in case you're wondering).

The War Powers Act of 1973 was passed in Congress over President Richard Nixon's veto to "increase congressional control over the executive branch in foreign policy matters, specifically in regard to military actions short of formally declared war. Its central provision prohibited the President from engaging in military actions for more than sixty days, unless Congress voted approval. "

President Barack Obama recently faced plenty of criticism from both sides of the aisle for continuing military engagement in Libya without the approval of Congress. One person, Holcomb argues, shouldn't have that much power.

"One person shouldn't be more or less set up that we will follow him and whatever he says as far as going to war," Holcomb said. "He needs to consult Congress and get their approval. We shouldn't invest this authority into one person. If he is given this authority through the War Powers Act, since when does that trump the Constitution?"

Holcomb has followed the shutdown pretty closely on TV and in the papers, because how it has impacted veterans touches him in a way only those who have served can be affected.

"It's politics," he said, echoing an all-too familiar phrase. "It's not running the country for the good of the people, it's strictly politics."

 
 

 

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