The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial has become a pilgrimage site for many Americans and Veterans, especially those from the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers. Those who have attempted to visit the cemetery for the past week were surprised to learn that it was closed, an overlooked victim of the government shutdown. While no “invasions” have happened yet here in France by angry veterans as in Washington D.C., the press has been eager to make the comparison. The headline on The Hill Pundits blog reads, “WWII vets storm memorial government shutdown barriers like the beaches of Normandy.”

Suresnes American Cemetery and MemorialSuresnes American Cemetery and Memorial, France

Most people have never heard of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Even more were surprised to learn that the government shutdown has not only closed sites in the United States (from the Lincoln Memorial to the Grand Canyon) but has also shutdown cemeteries and memorials located across the globe. The American Battle Monuments Commission was created in 1923 and is the government agency responsible for “designing, constructing, operating and maintaining permanent American cemeteries in foreign countries and establishing and maintaining U.S. military memorials, monuments and markers where American armed forces have served overseas since April 6, 1917.” Its cemeteries and memorials are as grand as the Jefferson or Lincoln Memorial and are well worth a detour to pay your respects and to admire. Unfortunately, they are another victim of the shutdown.

The American Battle Monuments Commission “maintains on foreign soil 24 permanent American burial grounds, and 25 separate memorials, monuments and markers, including three memorials in the United States. Presently there are 124,905 American war dead interred in these cemeteries, of which 30,921 are from World War I, 93,234 are from World War II and 750 are from the Mexican War. Additionally, 6,237 American veterans and others are interred at the Mexico City National Cemetery and the Corozal American Cemetery in Panama. Commemorated individually by name on stone tablets are 94,135 American servicemen and women who were missing in action, or lost or buried at sea in their regions during World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.”