Initially, the National Park Service implemented the America the Beautiful Pass, which offered free entry to the 2,000 affiliated parks, memorials and sites to active duty military members and their families. This pass became active on Armed Forces Day, May 19, ten years ago. Now, though, we’ve finally welcomed retired military members to use the America the Beautiful Pass, meaning they will be able to explore “more than 400 million acres of public lands, including national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests.”
Naturally, the National Park Service is proud to offer free lifetime access to U.S. Armed Forces veterans.
“We have a sacred obligation to America’s veterans. This new lifetime pass is a small demonstration of our nation’s gratitude and support for those who have selflessly served in the U.S. Armed Forces,” said Secretary Deb Haaland, whose father served during the Vietnam War. “I’m proud the Department of the Interior can provide veterans and Gold Star Families opportunities for recreation, education and enjoyment from our country’s treasured lands.”
Likewise, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expressed his gratitude to our veteran community for protecting the federal parks and lands we get to enjoy each day.
“Our national forests and grasslands represent so much of the beauty of the nation our brave service members have sacrificed so much for,” said Vilsack. “Though they can never be fully repaid, by connecting the families of the fallen and those who served with these iconic places, we can, in a small way, say thank you.”
Director Chuck Sams Speaks on Behalf of National Park Service and Veterans
As a Navy veteran, himself, National Park Service Director Chuck Sams has the unique perspective as a representative of both communities. And, of course, the fact that fellow veterans will now have free access to these beloved lands combines the best of both worlds.
“This is a small token of appreciation for veterans who have bravely dedicated their lives to defending our freedom.” “This pass conveys our immense gratitude and respect for those who have given so much,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “As a veteran, I know firsthand the many sacrifices that members of the Armed Forces and their families have made in service to our country, and I am thrilled that Gold Star Families and military veterans can now enjoy lifetime access to national parks and other public lands.”
On the military side, Lieutenant General (LTG) Scott Spellmon, Chief of Engineers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is just as enthusiastic about the new pass as the NPS staff.
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and our federal teammates are proud to honor our veterans with free lifetime access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas across the nation,” Spellmon said.