Many of the foreign visitors were shocked and dismayed by what had happened and how they were treated, Vaillancourt said.
“A lot of people who were foreign said they wouldn’t come back (to America),” she said.
The National Parks’ aggressive actions have spawned significant criticism in western states. Governors in park-rich states such as Arizona have been thwarted in their efforts to fund partial reopenings of parks. The Washington Times quoted an unnamed Park Service official who said park law enforcement personnel were instructed to “make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.”
The experience brought up many feelings in Vaillancourt. What struck her most was a widely circulated story about a group of World War II veterans who were on a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the World War II memorial when the shutdown began. The memorial was barricaded and guards were posted, but the vets pushed their way in.
That reminded her of her father, a World War II veteran who spent three years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
“My father took a lot of crap from the Japanese,” she recalled, her eyes welling with tears. “Every day they made him bow to the Japanese flag. But he stood up to them.
“He always said to stand up for what you believe in, and don’t let them push you around,” she said, adding she was sad to see “fear, guns and control” turned on citizens in her own country.