From next week, US veterans and the immediate family members of fallen service members will get to visit the nation’s most iconic wonders—its national parks, wildlife refuges, and other federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior—any time, for free.
As of Veteran’s Day on November 11, Gold Star Families and anyone who’s worked in the US Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, can go to the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, or Yosemite for no cost.
US Parks don’t only include natural wonders, but historical ones as well, like Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace in Kentucky, the Civil War Appomattox Court House in Virginia, the Frederick Douglass home in DC, and forts and battlefields in dozens of states.
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 climbing, will now be that bit more accessible to those who have served the country.
“Our veterans and Gold Star Families have made incredible sacrifices to defend our freedoms and our homeland. Ensuring that they are able to enjoy all of the wonders of the country that they’ve served is one small way of saying thank you,” said U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in a statement from the Department of Interior.
The positive impacts of being out in nature are well known to scientists: Even a 20-minute walk in a natural place significantly lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
“Exposure to outdoor recreation can provide a wide range of mental health benefits, and given our nation’s ongoing veteran suicide crisis, this is a welcome step forward using a whole of government approach to improve the lives of veterans,” explained Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America CEO Jeremy Butler.
As such, this new initiative from the Department of the Interior could make a positive difference to the lives of many thousands of people across the States.