WASHINGTON -- Military veterans from across the country roamed freely this weekend around Washington's war memorials, dedicated to honor their sacrifice and the freedoms they fought to defend.
"Emotional about the memorials," one war veteran, Joe Kelly, muttered.
But for 16 days during the government shutdown, metal barricades blocked public access to them.
The situation prompted a lawsuit from the American Center for Law and Justice as well as rallies and protests from critics who accused the Obama administration of heavy-handed tactics to hurt America's veterans.
"The politics of pain that are being used by the president go well over the line," Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., said.
The vets say they never would've imagined being forced to break through barricades after having fought for their country and breaching enemy lines.
"The memorial closures never should have happened," war veteran Tom Whalen said.
For many of these American heroes, this was a trip of a lifetime made possible by the Honor Flight Network.
The group makes it possible for aging vets from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars to fly to Washington free of charge.
While they know the political issues that led to the shutdown are far from over, for now, they're glad to see no one is being denied access to these hallowed sites.
"It's great that they're back open," war veteran Clarence Ellis said.