Veterans, Gold Star families granted lifetime admission to national parks, other federal lands

A group of military veterans enjoy a dive at Lake Mead National Recreation Area with National Park Service staff and partners, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA To commemorate Veterans Day and honor those who have served in the military, all National Park Service entrance fees will be waived for everyone Wednesday. In addition, beginning on Veterans Day, Gold Star families and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces will receive free lifetime passes to all national parks.

In this 2019 file photo, military personnel from the various branches formed up as an honor guard during Monday’s Veterans Day celebration at SunRiver Veterans Honor Park. St. George, Utah, Nov. 11. 2019 | Photo by David Louis, St. George News

“The Trump Administration is committed to honoring American patriots – the men and women who have served in our armed forces,” Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt said in a press release from the National Park Service. “With the utmost respect and gratitude, we are granting veterans and Gold Star Families free access to the iconic and treasured lands they fought to protect starting this Veterans Day and every single day thereafter.”

Margaret Everson, counselor to the Secretary of the Interior, exercising the delegated authority of the National Park Service director, expressed gratitude to Bernhardt and President Trump for “their commitment to military families and the creation of this opportunity to recognize those who have served in the military and sacrificed so much for our country.”

“On Veterans Day, particularly as the daughter of a veteran, I am proud to pause to honor all of our military veterans and reflect on their accomplishments,” she said. “We encourage these brave men and women and their families to visit their national parks to enjoy the beauty, history, and recreational opportunities of these magnificent lands they protected through their service.”

Gold Star families and U.S. military veterans will be granted free access to national parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior. Additionally, lands and waters managed by the USDA Forest Service and US Army Corps of Engineers will be participating in the program.

The entrance fee waiver does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, transportation, special recreation permits or special tours.

For purposes of this program, a veteran is identified as an individual who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and is able to present one of the following forms of identification when entering a national park:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card (CAC Card).
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC).
  • Veteran ID Card.
  • Veterans designation on a state-issued U.S. driver’s license or identification card.

Gold Star families are next of kin of a member of the United States Armed Forces who lost his or her life in a “qualifying situation,” such as a war, an international terrorist attack or a military operation outside of the United States while serving with the United States Armed Forces.

There are more than 100 national parks with direct connections to the American military, including frontier forts, battlefields, national cemeteries and memorials. From Minute Man National Historic Park in Massachusetts, where colonists stood in defense of their rights, to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota, which preserves relics related to the Cold War, national parks recall the contributions and selfless service of the military throughout the history of our nation.

2018 file photo from annual Veterans Day parade and program, Washington City, Utah, Nov. 12, 2018 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

In addition to historical sites, national parks provide veterans and current military members and their families with opportunities for relaxation, recreation and camaraderie in the great outdoors. Many parks are popular destinations for active adventures like hiking, climbing, cycling, swimming and scuba diving, while others are known for more tranquil activities such as camping, fishing, wildlife watching and observing the night sky.

The National Park Services has provided a map that highlights national parks near Veterans Administration facilities across the country and provides detailed information about each park.

Current members of the military and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass to national parks through the interagency America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program.

Other free or discounted passes are available for persons with permanent disabilities, fourth grade students, volunteers and senior citizens age 62 years or older. In addition, fifth grade students may obtain a voucher for free entrance during the 2020-21 school year by visiting

Veterans Day is the last free entrance day of 2020 for the general public. The other fee-free days that marked days of celebration and commemoration included the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., National Public Lands Day, Veterans Day and the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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