National parks granting free entrance for veterans, Gold Star families for life

Wright Brothers National Memorial [Kari Pugh photo]

Beginning today, all National Park Service entrance fees will be waived for those who served in the military and for Gold Star families, for life.

The free entry covers all national parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior. Additionally, lands and waters managed by the USDA Forest Service and US Army Corps of Engineers will be participating in the program. The entrance fee waiver does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, transportation, special recreation permits or special tours.

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 is able to present one of the following forms of identification when entering a national park:

  • Department of Defense Identification Card (CAC Card)
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)
  • Veteran ID Card
  • 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.

There are more than 100 national parks with direct connections to the American military, including frontier forts, battlefields, national cemeteries, and memorials. From Minute Man National Historic Park in Massachusetts where colonists stood in defense of their rights to Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota which preserves relics related to the Cold War, national parks recall the contributions and selfless service of the military throughout the history of our nation.

In addition to historical sites, national parks provide veterans and current military members and their families with opportunities for relaxation, recreation, and camaraderie in the great outdoors. Many parks are popular destinations for active adventures like hiking, climbing, cycling, swimming, and scuba diving, while others are known for more tranquil activities such as camping, fishing, wildlife watching, and observing the night sky. NPS.gov provides a map that highlights national parks near Veterans Administration facilities across the country and provides detailed information about each park.

Current members of the military and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass to national parks through the interagency America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program. Other free or discounted passes are available for persons with permanent disabilities, fourth grade students, volunteers, and senior citizens age 62 years or older. In addition, fifth grade students may obtain a voucher for free entrance during the 2020-21 school year by visiting NPS.gov/kids.

Veterans Day is the last free entrance day of 2020 for the general public. The other fee-free days that marked days of celebration and commemoration included the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., National Public Lands Day, Veterans Day, and the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.