To honor all past and present members of the U.S. Armed Forces, the National Park Service will waive all entrance fees for everyone on Veterans Day, November 11. Many national parks will also host special events.
“Veterans Day encourages all Americans to pause and pay tribute to the sacrifices made by our service members, past and present,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Historic sites, battlefields, and memorials, such as Valley Forge, Antietam, and the Korean War Memorial, are natural places to visit on Veterans Day. However, each of our 408 national parks is an important part of our national identity and an appropriate place to reflect on the courage and spirit exhibited by military veterans throughout our history.”
The National Park Service has many connections to the military. The agency preserves sites where American soldiers shed blood on American soil during the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and World War II. Many other national parks, including Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Carlsbad Caverns, Denali, and Hot Springs national parks, and Catoctin Mountain Park, served as official rest and rehabilitation locations during World War II. Today, many parks, such as Lake Clark, North Cascades, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite national parks, continue the tradition and host programs that promote physical and mental healing for wounded veterans.
The National Park Service also maintains memorials dedicated to the valor of our veterans, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, theUSS Arizona Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Marine Corp Memorial, and the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. Other national parks, such as Manzanar National Historic Site, Rosie the Riveter/World War II Homefront National Historical Park, Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Andersonville National Historic Site, and Prince William Forest Park recall people and events associated with military history. The nation’s newest national park, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which will become the nation’s 409th national park tomorrow, will tell the story of the people, events, science, and engineering that led to the creation of the atomic bombs that helped end World War II. It will also explore how the creation of these weapons changed the world and the United States’ role in the global community.
Special events taking place in parks this week to commemorate Veterans Day include free train rides for veterans at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a meet and greet with a reenactor portraying a Revolutionary War soldier at Morristown National Historical Park, a variety of free or discounted activities at Lake Mead National Recreation Area which include boat and raft trips down the Colorado River, a program at Valley Forge National Historical Park that will include a military enlistment ceremony, costumed park rangers discussing the “glorius cause” that was the American Revolution at Independence National Historical Park, a naval avaiation program at Gateway National Recreation Area, a Battle of New Orleans talk at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve, walking tours at Shiloh National Military Park, free tower tours for veterans at Fire Island National Seashore, guided tours at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, and a program about Camp Sherman, a World War I training camp, at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.
While in a park, active duty members of the military and their dependents can pick up a free annual pass to all national parks. Disabled veterans can get a free lifetime pass. The passes provide free entrance to more than 2,000 national parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, and other federal recreational areas. The passes can be acquired at any national park that usually charges an admission fee. More information about the passes can be found at www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.
On Veterans Day, the National Park Service will also unveil a new website, www.nps.gov/WorldWarII, that will use national parks to trace America’s World War II experience, from its beginning at Pearl Harbor to its end with the Manhattan Project. It will include lesser-known national park connections to the war, such as the U-boat clashes off the Outer Banks in North Carolina, the fighting on Guam, and the battle for the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. A section of the site will focus on the home front experience of many Americans and will include the hardships faced by Japanese-Americans, African-Americans, and women.
The National Park Service has also published an award-winning series of books which document the contributions of various ethnic groups during the Civil War. The series includes Hispanics and the Civil War, American Indians and the Civil War, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the Civil War.