October 2, 2013
By Alton K. Marsh
Closure of the government meant closure of war memorials, although thousands of veterans have long-standing plans to visit them through the organization Honor Flight. Honor Flight Board Chairman Jim McLaughlin said those visits will continue.
McLaughlin's organization has previously arranged plans to bring 3,560 veterans to Washington, D.C., during October. Since the organization started, it has brought 115,000 veterans to the city to see memorials honoring their service. For many, it is their first trip to Washington, D.C., in decades.
"We can't change our aircraft charter arrangements," McLaughlin said. The group, which once asked volunteer general aviation pilots to fly veterans to Washington, D.C., now uses charters from US Airways or commercial charters. He indicated the veterans will honor barriers placed by the U.S. National Park Service, but said he has heard of congressmen who intend to gain access for veterans from their state. Arlington National Cemetery remains open, as does the Air Force Memorial.
McLaughlin said his organization consists of 130 "hubs" in 42 states. One of those hubs located in Mississippi attracted national attention Oct. 1 when veterans visiting the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., were blocked by temporary barriers. Media portrayed the vets as "storming" the barriers, although most were in wheelchairs. A Washington Post article Oct. 1 said it was unclear who opened the barriers, although television reports seemed to show congressmen pulling the temporary metal barriers aside.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
Here’s a riddle: What job requires a private pilot certificate, but never asks you to leave the ground?
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