Shutdown jeopardizes D.C. trip for WWII vets

PORTLAND, Ore. - If anybody deserves to see the nation's capital, it's probably Donald Hancock.

The Army veteran fought in Northern France in World War II, leaving his Oregon home to join up in March 1943.

He dodged shells. He protected bridges. He watched his friends get shot.

"I listened to them, they were like hornets going by your head," he said. "We saw quite a bit."

So an organization called Honor Flight of Oregon set up a trip for him and other veterans to visit Washington, D.C. The group relies on small donations from lots of people to foot the bill for sending thousands of vets to Washington every year.

"They're nice people, they're doing wonderful things," Hancock said.

Hancock has been on the nonprofit's list for two years. He finally made it to the front of the line.

Of course, his trip was set up long before the federal government closed for business Monday night.

The shutdown means most of the major sights in Washington are closed.

"It really irritates me that they're doing it now, because I've been on the list about two years and we got it all arranged. My son and daughter made arrangements to come, too," he said.

"They could've done something. They could get their heads together and worked something out. That's what you do with your neighbors."

Adding insult to injury was news that local organizers Gail Yakopatz received from the group's national office: If any veterans try to enter the sights, they might be arrested for trespassing.

At this point, Hancock might be up for a little civil disobedience - much the same way a group of 92 veterans from Mississippi found their way into the World War II memorial on Tuesday.

"If we go now, all we do is get on the bus and drive by, instead of going in and seeing 'em," Hancock said. "That isn't right.

"We probably should do that and get arrested."

The group is sending 19 flights with more than 900 veterans from around the country in the next six days alone. Their average age is 90. About 300 vets from Oregon alone have been sent this year.

This wouldn't be Hancock's first trip. Five years ago, he packed into an RV with his wife and dog and saw some of the sights. His brother was killed in the Korean War, so that memorial was among the stops.

But there's still more on his list, and he's not happy to see politics get in the way.

"They didn't have a World War II monument at that time," he said. "Now they finished it and we thought this would be a good chance to go see it. It's wonderful how great this country is, and the people who are in it.

"It seems to me people ought to be able to sit down and work things out. You know they got their laws and they live by them. But they don't live by things that take care of the people and the country - they think of their self."