By Art Holliday
ELLISVILLE, Mo. (KSDK) - Above the mantle in Pete Bollinger's Ellisville home are the medals he earned as a sailor in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the Korean War.
"Just being in two wars makes you eligible for a lot of medals. I wasn't ever any kind of a hero," said Bollinger. "I was just a guy doing his job."
The 86-year-old Bollinger is excited about his Honor Flight this week: a free one-day trip to Washington, D.C. and the World War II Memorial. "I haven't been in Washington for about 40 years and the memorial wasn't there the last time and I've heard a lot about it and I'd like to see it."
There's only one problem for Pete and the 37 other honor flight veterans flying out of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Wednesday morning. The government shutdown means the World War II Memorial is closed. That closure turned out to be a technicality for more than 90 Honor Flight veterans from Mississippi Tuesday. The vets ignored the barricades and forced their way in.
"I figured if they could storm Normandy they can take over a little barricade," said Dave Hall. Hall is one of the co-founders of the Franklin County Honor Flight. Since 2007, the Franklin County Honor Flight has paid for more than 1,100 veterans to travel to the World War II Memorial.
After the government shutdown, was there any thought of cancelling this week's honor flight?
"I would say maybe about three seconds and that was about it," said Hall. "A lot of these guys might not be with us in April because this will be our last trip of the year."
When told of the actions by the Mississippi Honor Flight veterans, Pete Bollinger said he's not surprised.
"Doesn't surprise me one bit. They're a pretty independent bunch of people and when they see something wrong they do something about it and that was wrong," he said.
As for the government shutdown and the bickering on Capitol Hill that caused it?
"I think the whole idea is ridiculous," said Bollinger. "They need to compromise and come to some kind of solution quit of putting the country through this sort of thing."