On this Veterans Day, as a Gold Star parent, while bittersweet, I always have so much humble appreciation for gestures like these.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt recently signed an order announcing that Gold Star Families and U.S. military veterans will be granted free access to national parks, national wildlife refuges and other federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior starting today, Veterans Day (Nov. 11) today and every day onward.

Secretary Bernhardt's remarks included, “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.”

Entrance fees for the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System, and standard amenity recreation fees for the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation sites will be waived for veterans and Gold Star Families. They will have free access to approximately 2,000 public locations spread out across more than 400 million acres of public lands, which host activities to fit any lifestyle, from serene to high octane, including hiking, fishing, paddling, biking, hunting, stargazing and rock climbing. Additionally, lands and waters managed by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are participating in the program.

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 can present one of the following forms of identification: Department of Defense Identification Card, Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC), Veteran ID Card or 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.

The Interagency America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program already includes a free annual pass for active-duty members of the U.S. Military and their dependents. Other free or discounted passes are available for persons with permanent disabilities, fourth-grade students, volunteers, and senior citizens age 62 years or older.

I eagerly anticipate my next opportunity to visit one of these areas. Thank you. And God bless our veterans.


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