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In honor of Veterans Day, many national parks across the country are hosting special events, displays, and ceremonies to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the U.S. Armed Forces. The National Park Service will waive entrance fees on November 11.
“It’s a special responsibility to be the stewards of the memorials, battlefields, and historic sites that tell the story of the honor, courage, and sacrifice of our veterans,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “All 413 of our parks nationwide offer the chance to reflect on what our veterans fought to protect, and may also provide opportunities for veterans and their families to find peace and healing.”
National parks and other public lands can be used to facilitate healing and reflection, physical and mental challenges, and rest and recuperation for veterans, active duty service members, and their families. Rivers of Recovery, one of the nonprofit organizations that uses national parks for this purpose, partnered with Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway to create the “Vets on the River” program, which offers multi-day trips on the park’s rivers to combat veterans suffering from physical or psychological injuries.
“Vets on the River is an amazing program that provides a great opportunity for veterans suffering from PTSD, an opportunity to gain another support group,” said Rob Boss, a participant who shared his experience in a video. “Just being with nature and being outdoors, being on the relaxing river, it allows us to open up with each other, which we so need.”
The National Park Service cares for many sites across the country related to the military experience, including more than 25 battlefields, 14 national cemeteries, and hundreds of memorials and monuments. Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, Manhattan Project National Historical Park, and other historic sites tell greater story of contributions, sacrifice, and consequences of conflict off the battlefield.
A few ways to commemorate Veterans Day at national parks include:
- Meeting some of the women who contributed to the war effort at Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park;
- Listening to a special recital of the stories of veterans buried in the cemetery at St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site;
- Attending an Oath of Enlistment Ceremony for new military recruits at Valley Forge National Historical Park;
- Joining a discussion on the story of an African American U.S. Army regiment nicknamed the “Buffalo Soldiers” at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site;
- Watching a firing demonstration at Saratoga National Historical Park from the Revolutionary War through present day; or
- Taking a train ride through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, free to all past and present military, first responders, and their families.
Active duty military members and their dependents can pick up a free military annual pass at any national park that usually charges a fee. A free lifetime pass is also available to disabled veterans. These passes provide free entrance to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and other federal recreational areas. More information about the passes can be found at www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.