Vets Fly To DC To See Shut Down War Memorials

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(Memphis) Despite the government shutdown a group of Mid-South veterans are headed to Washington D.C.

Their main mission is to see the war memorials.

The problem is that many of them are closed.

The veterans did have quite the greeting at the airport.

Even the maintenance staff took a few minutes to see them off and help them with their bags.

“Thank you so much sir for everything you have done for this country,” said a Patriot Guard Rider to 96-year-old Veteran B.J. Wilkes.

Twenty-eight Korean and World War II vets are flying to the nation's capital to see the memorials that honor them.

Wilkes couldn’t be more happy.

“This is the greatest thing in the world. It's great.”

Many of these men have never been.

The trip is free, paid for by people who want to see them go but Diane Hight with the non-profit Forever Young says this departure, for her, is bittersweet.

“I am very sad about it because going into an empty memorial is not going to be the same.”

With the federal government shutdown, the World War II Memorial is closed.

The vets will still be allowed in, but not the public.

Hight says from prior trips, it’s always the people that the veterans remember.

“I mean people just flood to them and carry on about them and love them. Going into an empty memorial is going to be a little depressing to me.”

As for Wilkes, who earned a purple heart in World War II after being shot, then saving a man's life, he’s happy just be on his way.

“Do you think it will impact your trip?” asked reporter Sabrina Hall.

“No. I don't think so,” said Wilkes.

The vets plan to visit the World War II Memorial Saturday, Arlington Cemetary (which is open) Sunday, and will be back home by Tuesday.

They are crossing their fingers the shutdown will be over before then.