GOP lawmakers urge Biden admin to resume police escorts for veterans’ Honor Flights

One of the many casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic were the Honor Flight Network tours of Washington D.C. for elderly veterans, and while those all-expenses-paid trips to honor their service and sacrifice began to resume last year, the vehicular escorts previously provided by the U.S. Park Police have not.

Now a group of 76 House Republicans is urging the Biden administration to resume providing the federal escorts for veterans visiting the capital city, Fox News reported.

Specifically, the GOP lawmakers directed their request to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, as the Interior Department has jurisdiction over the nation’s parks and monuments and memorials and the Park Police who serve and protect them.

Resume the police escorts

In a letter to Sec. Haaland spearheaded by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and joined by 75 other House Republicans, the members of Congress “urgently” requested that the Park Police resume provision of the “vehicular escort services granted in previous years.”

“Our brave veterans have made tremendous sacrifices to secure the freedoms we enjoy today,” the lawmakers continued. “As a nation, we owe it to our heroes to give them the utmost honor and privilege that they deserve on their Honor Flight to Washington, D.C.”

The letter went on to note that “more than 245,000 World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and terminally ill veterans” have been honored with the all-expenses-paid trips to and guided tours of Washington D.C., which provides those elderly veterans a chance to share with each other and others their accounts and memories of wartime service and pay tribute to their fallen compatriots.

In order to accomplish this worthy vision, it is imperative that DOI provide USPP vehicular escort services to Honor Flight Hubs slated to arrive this spring. The escort services play a critical logistical role in ensuring these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities run smoothly and safely as Hubs navigate the busy National Mall. It is imperative that veterans — particularly those with physical disabilities — have the necessary parking access to ensure ease of entry to each war memorial to get the full experience they have earned.

Ignoring veterans?

This isn’t the first time that members of Congress have asked the Biden administration to resume the prior practice of providing escort services to the groups of elderly veterans touring the nation’s capital, as Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), himself a wounded veteran, led a bipartisan group of Florida representatives in making that same request nearly a month ago.

“These monuments belong to those who served. Either the Biden Administration has forgotten about these men and women, or they are actively keeping them at arm’s length. Neither is acceptable,” Mast said in a statement at that time.

“Secretary Haaland must immediately authorize the Park Police to provide these escorts to make sure our veterans get to see their monuments.”

The Military Times reported on that mid-March request and noted that the Honor Flights Network has been providing the unique service, which includes financial and medical assistance for the often elderly and poor-in-health participants, since 2005. The lack of federal police escorts has hampered efforts to resume the flights and tours, however.

Matthew Schuman, Honor Flight’s chair of the board, told the outlet, “Honor Flight has had a long-standing hand-shake agreement with the Park Police to provide police escorts for the Honor Flights and veterans visiting the memorials raised in their honor.”

“These police escorts provide safety for the veterans, many physically disabled, and ensure they have the ability and time to visit the memorials, reflect upon their service and the sacrifices of their fellow brother and sister veterans,” Schuman added. “Without them, veterans face a reduced time at the memorials, and in a less safe environment, amongst the hustle and bustle of our nation’s capital.”

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