They arrived at Austin Bergstrom International Airport Saturday night to a hero's welcome. Junior ROTC members and the veterans' family members lined up to give them one final cheer.
Hours earlier they toured the World War II Memorial at our nation's capital. The shutdown threatened their visit, but as FOX 7's Noelle Newton shows Texans don't back down that easy.
Thirty-three men and one woman, Central Texas heroes of World War II, started their Saturday morning at Arlington National Cemetery.400 thousand are buried there. One grave is that of Ted Eubanks's older brother Leon S. Eubanks. He visited it to pay his respects.
"He was a career man," Eubanks said. "[He] spent 30 years in the service and retired" Before the group made their way to the World War II Memorial Senator John Cornyn thanked them and shook all of their hands. He also expressed his frustration for what the vets would soon encounter.
"It's embarrassing that people would try and make this shutdown even more painful as opposed to making things easier for people we should be honoring," said Cornyn.
Sure enough when the vets arrived, the barricades were up. Signs warned that the area was closed except for first amendment activities. Despite the threatening displays, park officers let everyone in with a friendly handshake and thank you.
Bathrooms were closed. Veterans were forced to use port-a-potties. That proved difficult for those in wheelchairs. Inside the memorial the fountain was turned off.
"It's very discouraging what's happening here in Washington," said WWII Veteran Jerry McArdle.
The veterans didn't let it steal their joy. After all, they're fighters. Axl Schiller and his brother Ray posed for a photo by the Texas marker.
"He's 92. I'm 87," said Schiller.
Both served in the Army.
"I saw his truck and I thought that's my brother. I knew the number. I didn't know how close we were, but later we found out we were 50 miles apart," Ray said.
The easy access ended there. Park police blocked our entry to the Marine Corps Memorial. The memorial was open to foot traffic only. Honor Flight groups that arrived before us dumped out water barrels to drive through. By the time we got there, police had caught on. We had to leave.
At the Lincoln Memorial, Honor Flight Austin Chairman Allen Bergeron was finished talking. He moved the barricade allowing the veterans to see the Korean and Vietnam War memorials.
Obstacles aside, these heroes got to see things they never thought they would. They will treasure these moments for the rest of their days.
"It was a lifetime experience," said Eubanks.
An estimated 1,000 WWII vets die each day. Honor Flight is rushing to get them all to D.C. before it's too late. You can donate by clicking on the link below.