“It was just a whole new slew of emotions — very bittersweet emotions,” says the young veteran’s partner, Emily Henkel. But she couldn’t be more proud of the bill that’s named after her late boyfriend, Alexander Lofgren.
The two would explore the outdoors and national parks of America “every weekend,” Henkel says. With each making for an experience she’ll never forget.
Young Alexander Lofgren was a combat veteran. He served in Afghanistan, and would use nature as therapy. In life, he was both a congressional aide- and a caseworker assisting veterans as his dayjob. It is this legacy – his legacy with our incredible national parks – that will now ensure that every U.S. veteran and Gold Star family will receive free entry to our country’s incredible national parks for life.
“He just had this absolute wonderment and complete awe of all these parks and just would be so excited to show me,” Emily, 27, tells Arizona’s AZ Central newspaper.
Tragically, Alexander, 32 would leave her far, far too soon in April of 2021. During a camping trip in Death Valley National Park, the couple became stranded deep in the wilderness after two flat tires. Their journey to find help would cost Alexander his life after he fell off a steep cliff. Emily tried to reach him, but fell – breaking her ankle. She wound up stranded for days before rescue workers could find them. Emily was still alive, with Alexander lying next to her.
It’s as heartbreaking a story as one will ever read. But Emily is taking heart – alongside all those who knew and loved Alexander – in the veterans’ bill that bears his name.
Camping Tragedy Leads to Long-Overdue Offering for U.S. Veterans
The bill was introduced by U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R, of Iowa, in July. It passed via the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday, the 26th.
“It was a very emotional weekend knowing how, you know… The last time I was in D.C., I was with him, and this time I was by myself watching live from my phone from a restaurant,” she continues for the trade. “Every time another congressman or woman was up and voted yes, it was just a whole new slew of emotions. Very bittersweet emotions.”
Before he died, Alexander served as a congressional aide for Democratic Representative Raúl Grijalva of Arizona. Rep. Grijalva says her young aide was beyond passionate about helping other veterans to experience the “therapeutic” peace of our incredible national parks. As such, Grijalva named the veterans’ bill after the late Logfren.
“Alex working with us here saw that nature, our open spaces, our state and federal parklands and wilderness areas and public places were therapeutic… That they were important in the reintegration of veterans back into our civilian life hereafter they completed their service to the nation,” AZ Central cites of Rep. Grijalva. “He was a huge proponent of that.”
Alexander and Emily lived together in Tuscon, Arizona, and were together for more than two years. But now, in his absence, she is doing her best to take solace in the “overwhelmingly amazing feeling” that is seeing the love of her life memorialized “in the absolute perfect way.”