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Government shutdown won't keep Tucson vets from WWII memorial

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Government shutdown won't keep Tucson vets from WWII memorial

By Justin Schecker. CREATED Oct 4, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Despite the government shutdown and memorial closures, a Tucson Honor Flight leaves Sunday for the Nation's Capital. 

Charles Wohlleb has seen the video of other men who fought for our country barging through the barricades at the World War II Memorial earlier this week.  

"Would you have done the same?" 9 On Your Side asked him. 

"Oh yeah," Wohlleb said. "If they do that to us down there when we go, I'll get in. I'll do the same thing. Its our monument."

"They waited over 60 years for it to be built," Tucson Honor Flight volunteer Kathy Mansur said. "And I know most of our guys have been waiting for a year to go."

Sixty years ago, Wohlleb served in the Navy. During WWII, he was stationed in the Pacific on the U.S.S. Spence, a destroyer ship. 

"We saw plenty of action down there," Wohlleb said, referring to battles with the Japanese near the Solomon Islands. 

While off the coast of the Philippines in December 1944, it was a battle with Mother Nature, not the Japanese, that changed Wohlleb's life forever.

"It wasn't just a regular storm," he said. "It turned out to be a typhoon. The water, the storm had the power to do whatever it wanted with us."

Wohlleb managed to get on a floater net as the ship capsized.

"That's Luzon, that part, and we sunk right about there," Wohlleb said while pointing to a spot on a globe. "I seen the ship upside down. That's the last time I've seen the ship."

Of the 350 men on board the U.S.S. Spence, Wohlleb is one of only 24 survivors.

"There isn't one day that doesn't go by I don't think about and I'll probably think about it more when I get there," Wohlleb said of his trip to Washington, D.C.

The 77 veterans from Southern Arizona are scheduled to visit the WWII Memorial on Monday.    

"The Honor Flights are being granted access to the WWII memorial to conduct First Amendment activities in accordance with National Park Service regulations applicable to the National Mall and Memorial Parks," said National Park Service Spokeswoman Carol Johnson in a statement. 

As for the rest of the monuments on their trip itinerary, they'll have to wait and see what's open when they get to our Nation's Capital, Mansur said.  

Justin Schecker

Justin Schecker

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Justin Schecker reports for KGUN 9 ON Your Side at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00. He joined KGUN9 in September of 2012 and spent his first year in Tucson covering overnight breaking news for Good Morning Tucson.