Government shutdown no match for Greatest Generation

ALBANY, Ore. - Del Riley faced the enemy in the snow of the Italian Alps 68 years ago with the 10th Mountain Division.

"It was cold," the 87-year-old said, "sleeping with one GI blanket."

The memories of World War II came flooding back for the Army vet this past week during a visit to the World War II memorial.

"It's just out of this world, really," Riley said. "I can't describe it; it's overwhelming."

Riley took part in the most recent Honor Flight for the South Willamette Valley Chapter.

The government shutdown threatened to throw a wrench in the works.

"I want to just call it idiocy," coordinator Mike Pungercar said of the shutdown. "All of the rest rooms were closed and locked."

The generation that liberated Europe wasn't going let yellow tape keep them from the memorial erected in their honor.

Another Honor Flight group made short work of the tape.

"They just went up, cut the tape, put the gates aside and went in," Pungercar said.

With $80,000 invested in the trip, Pungercar said calling it off was out of the question.

The age of the veterans involved in the trip - people who were young men and women in the 1940s - made postponing the trip "not even realistic," Pungercar said.

In the end: Mission accomplished.

"That's the way we all felt," Riley said. "We wanted to see this, and if we have to push some barriers aside, we'll do it."

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