Giving Back to Our Veterans

By: 
Katherine Chesson

Veterans Day is a time for all of us to honor those who have served our country. Members of the military—and their families—give so much to our country and the National Park Foundation is proud to show our appreciation and support them through America’s national parks.

We support many awesome programs that give active duty members, veterans and families of those serving incredible opportunities to connect with and enjoy their national parks. Keep reading to get the inside scoop on a couple of these programs!  

As part of our America’s Best Idea program, funded in part by our friends at L.L. Bean, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument  partnered with local military bases to bring youth and families from nearby Colorado Springs, Colorado into their national parks this past summer for three unforgettable experiences including  week-long youth mentoring and trail crew program, a weekend camping getaway for families of fallen soldiers and a three-day journalism workshop for National Guard youth. Watch the video below to see and hear first-hand how these awesome activities are having a positive impact on kids, families and national parks!

Another America’s Best Idea grant supported Mount Rainier National Park’s “Base to Basecamp” program, providing teenagers from active duty military families with an intensive outdoor experience in partnership with the Student Conservation Association. Eight high school students whose families are stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord spent 15 days this past summer helping out with critical trail-building and habitat restoration projects for the park. The crew, led by experienced leaders, built camaraderie and trust within their group by sharing work, cooking, and clean-up duties. In the field, crew members developed work skills, received instruction in environmental education, learned about career opportunities, and spent two days exploring all the park has to offer.

One of our Active Trails grants made it possible for active and former military personnel, volunteers, and local service organizations to transform the Spicebush Nature Trail in Catoctin Mountain Park into an inviting wheelchair accessible interpretative trail that blends seamlessly into the eastern deciduous forest. Now the trail is an accessible pathway for all visitors including disabled veterans and recuperating active duty service personnel!

We are so thankful for all of the opportunities we have to share America’s national parks with our veterans and military families, and every single one of you. Don’t forget that the parks are fee free today in honor of Veterans Day – get out there and enjoy your national parks!