KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Hundreds of cheering, flag-waving supporters welcomed home a group of some 90 World War II veterans at KCI on Wednesday, after the group drew national attention with a visit to the officially-closed WWII memorial in Washington D.C. earlier that day.
The group, the largest ever sent to Washington by the non-profit Heartland Honor Flight, became media darlings during their day-long trip to the Capitol. Politicians raced to the closed memorial to help the vets, many in their late 80's or early 90's, get access to the memorial they traveled nearly 1000 miles to see, but which is technically closed by the ongoing government shutdown.
Among the veterans seeing Washington for the first time was 89-year old Peter Peterka, a Navy veteran from Lee's Summit, who told 41 Action News he was "speechless" upon seeing the massive crowd gathered to welcome him home at KCI on Wednesday.
Before the trip, Peterka had joked that if the gates remained closed during the D.C. visit, he and his fellow vets -- with experience getting around barricades far more dangerous than those set up by the park service -- would find their way in anyway.
"Let's say that I'm pushing a wheelchair of a friend, 'Open the gate! Open the gate! I'm coming through!' Are they going to stop this wheelchair? No," he said.
But when park service officials simply stood aside on Wednesday, no wheelchair assault was needed, and the group had access to the monument built in their honor after all.
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