Now Active-Duty Military, Veterans, And Gold Star Families Can Visit National Parks and Other Federal Lands For Free For Life

The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law on Dec. 27 after passing the House and the Senate, includes the Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act, which lets military veterans, active-duty service members, and Gold Star families access the United States’ National Parks and other federal recreational lands without paying a dime.

“We can never fully repay our veterans for their service and sacrifice, but we want to show our gratitude by giving them lifetime access to America’s beautiful landscapes,” said Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), who introduced the legislation in the House, in a statement sent to The Epoch Times.

“My Alexander Lofgren VIP will give all of our amazing veterans, Gold Star families, and active-duty soldiers access to all our of national parks for life. We often say that we support the physical and mental health of our veterans, and it is great to see legislation pass that will do great things for the health of our heroes. As a 24-year Army veteran and a doctor I am proud to have gotten my legislation signed into law,” she added.

The bill honors Alexander Lofgren, a veteran of the War in Afghanistan who died after becoming stranded in Death Valley National Park during an April 2021 camping trip with his girlfriend, Emily Henkel. Henkel was hospitalized but survived.

Lofgren had been an aide to Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee.

In a joint statement released Dec. 28, the Lofgren family and Grijalva celebrated the new act.

“Alex was part of our extended family, and we miss him deeply. He dedicated his time to serving fellow veterans and loved our national parks and sharing the peace that it brought him with others. With the signing of this law, now we permanently give the gift of free entry to national parks to our veterans and gold star families to use nature to help with their healing,” Grijalva said.

“As an advocate for veterans, a military family member and veteran himself, Alexander’s wish to make National Parks accessible to veterans and gold star families has been realized through this act,” said Ret. Col. Joseph Lofgren and other members of the Lofgren family in the statement.

Patrick Murray, the legislative director for Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), told The Epoch Times that the act is a “slam dunk.”

“Everybody thinks this is a great idea, and some really great people are going to benefit from it,” he said. “Veterans is a really nice space where Washington, D.C. still comes and works together for the right purpose.”

He says he has heard that some veterans in the west, near many of the United States’ most famous national parks, are aware of the act and ready to take advantage of their free lifetime acccess.

“I hope word gets out to active-duty troops as well,” he added.

Nathan Worcester

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Nathan Worcester is an environmental reporter at The Epoch Times.

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