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WWII Vets Return Home to Heroes' Welcome

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The WWII vets returned home Wednesday night to a hero's welcome after spending the day in Washington, DC, visiting sites like the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln, Korean, and Vietnam Memorial -- all locations that are closed due to the government shutdown. Lauren Jiggetts reports.

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Veterans Give Lawmakers An Earful On D.C. Trip

Nearly 100 WWII Illinois veterans visited the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. today, which was supposed to be closed due to the federal shutdown.

Vets Cross Barricades Despite Shutdown

A group of veterans walked past barriers at the closed World War II memorial in Washington with help from members of Congress. Hundreds arrived for a previously scheduled visit to the memorial to find it barricaded by the National Park Service.
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After surviving World War II, a little partisan political bickering is hardly a hurdle for a group of Illinois veterans.

The WWII vets returned home Wednesday night to a heroes' welcome after spending the day in Washington, D.C. visiting sites like the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln, Korean, and Vietnam Memorial -- all locations that are closed due to the government shutdown.

The 92 veterans, part of Honor Flight Chicago, greeted an enthusiastic crowd at Midway Airport.

"It makes me feel good to see so many people interested in letting them know how much we appreciate how much they did," said Sally Koepsell, who was waiting for her husband John.

The trip was almost grounded after a group of veterans were initially turned away from the Washington sites, until a congressmen moved the barrier and let them in.

The veterans were visited during their Wednesday trip by Sen. Mark Kirk, a veteran himself, and Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley.

Some of the vets used the opportunity to let the politicians know how they felt about the shutdown.

"I need to talk to you," one of the veterans said to a lawmaker. "Why in the world are you cutting money from food stamps? Why are you doing that?"

But others were happy to have the opportunity, despite the shutdown.

"It's a beautiful tribute. I'll never forget it and I'm very honored," veteran Mary Lynch said.

Early Wednesday, Kirk was adamant about making sure the tour happened despite the shutdown closing several monuments at the National Mall.

"Today I'll join WWII heroes from #Illinois at the WWII Memorial. Shutdown can't stop them from seeing their memorial," he said.

Among the crowd waiting for the veterans back in Chicago was WWII vet Delmar Gerth who completed his Honor Flight in 2009. He's been part of the welcoming crowd 19 times.

"In service we learned one word -- respect. And respect will solve so many problems," Gerth said. "It's a recharging of the batteries just being here with so many people."

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