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Commemorating Military History

National parks have always had strong ties to the military. In fact, when the National Park Service (NPS) was established in 1916, many of the parks’ first rangers were members of the U.S. Calvary. During times of war, some park lands were set aside for the training and care of military personnel. National parks mark the locations where clashes took place, where soldiers and their families slept and lived, and where we now go to remember and reflect upon our military, past and present.

The National Park Foundation (NPF)’s mission to preserve history and culture in parks, funds projects that aim to expand storytelling in our parks, including our American military history, to help share a more comprehensive history of the U.S.

NPF's Work in This Space

NPF supports programs and projects within national parks that highlight America’s military history, as well as supports and honors those who have and continue to serve our country.

exhibit in park visitor center
Area of Work
History & Culture
History & Culture
NPF’s History & Culture programs support dynamic educational programs, professional development opportunities, rehabilitation of historic sites, and the preservation of artifacts and places that help us better understand America today by fully reflecting our past.
Learn More about History & Culture
  • People looking in an exhibit case.
    Program
    Inclusive Storytelling
    NPF’s Inclusive Storytelling program funds projects that support more comprehensive narratives throughout parks, featuring the stories, experiences, and interpretations of communities whose voices and contributions have been excluded from the American story. Projects will be conducted at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, and Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, as well as many others.
  • A night, an illuminated path leads to a gate
    Program
    NPS Mellon Humanities Fellowship
    The NPS Mellon Humanities Fellowship program, supported by NPF, helps pair humanities scholars with national parks to help us all discover untold perspectives and new voices. One Fellow will work with oral histories at War in the Pacific National Historical Park and American Memorial Park, while another Fellow will expand the understanding of the United States Colored Troops at Vicksburg National Military Park.

Recent Projects

Explore just some of the projects supported by NPF that help preserve and share the stories of military history in our national parks.

Ranger dressed in a military uniform gives a speech in front of a historic photo of Charles Young
Project
Establishing New Parks
NPF has helped establish new national park sites across the country, including Camp Nelson National Monument, a site that was a Union Army recruitment and training center for African American soldiers and a refugee camp during the Civil War, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, which preserves the home and post-Civil War military legacy of Col. Charles Young, a distinguished officer in the U.S. Army.
  • Jon Knox poses for a photo with a fish he caught.
    Project
    Working with Veterans in Parks
    NPF supports programs and projects that ensure everyone can find their connections to national parks, including military veterans. A ParkVentures program grant supported Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing in Shenandoah National Park, while an NPF Women in Parks grant supported diving projects for wounded women veterans in Biscayne National Park. An NPF grant to Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine helped the park invite veterans and their families to an all-day social event, including guided kayaking tours and nature hikes.
  • Two historic cannons lie in the foreground. In the background, a white stone memorial
    Vicksburg National Military Park
    Interpreting Vicksburg
    NPF supported the installation of new interpretive displays at Vicksburg National Military Park to help visitors understand significant moments in the Vicksburg campaign during the Civil War. A NPS Mellon Humanities Fellow will expand the park’s research, understanding, and interpretation of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), Federal occupation, and Reconstruction period in Vicksburg.
  • Close up of a blue biplane with yellow wings
    Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site
    Launching an Aviation Discovery Lab
    Thanks to a grant from the Fund II Foundation, NPF’s African American Experience Fund supported a new Discovery Lab at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. The lab will serve as a central location for aviation research, education, training, and public programming.
  • A group of kids raise their hands in front of a historic mission
    Open OutDoors for Kids
    Connecting Students to Military History Sites
    NPF’s Open OutDoors for Kids program connects children to their culture and heritage, enhances hands-on learning opportunities, and deepens their connections to the natural world through field trips to and virtual experiences of national park sites, including those which preserve our military history. A 2023 Open OutDoors for Kids grant enabled students to visit North Carolina’s Guilford Courthouse National Military Park to learn more about the American Revolution.
  • A dry, grassy plain slopes downwards toward the visitor center
    Parks of the Future
    Transforming Visitor Centers
    NPF is helping parks plan for the future, including enhancing the visitor experience through immersive, engaging visitors centers. With a generous gift from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, NPF is helping Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument construct a new visitor center. NPF also partnered with the Gettysburg Foundation to transform the Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station into a visitor destination and educational experience at Gettysburg National Military Park. An expansion of the visitor center at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield will allow fragile artifacts and other items to be rendered in 3D for visitors to explore.

Related Stories

Two people fly fish along a stony river
Story
"I Was Hooked"
"I Was Hooked"
Join participants of Project Healing Waters, a project supported by NPF’s ParkVentures program which expands veteran services in parks, as they learn fly-fishing techniques in Shenandoah National Park.
Learn More about "I Was Hooked"
  • A single-story ranch-style house with light brown brick and teal siding
    Parks
    Preserving Veterans Stories
    Explore the lives of veterans whose stories are preserved and shared in national parks across the country.
  • 2 scuba divers underwater
    Story
    Sea Sisters
    Meet the “Sea Sisters,” teams of veterans and professional diverse who’ve received specialty training, as they embarked on dives at Biscayne National Park. Together in 2021, the “sea sisters” removed a total of 587 pounds of marine debris from the park’s sea floor.
  • A line of roses rest against an stone wall, engraved with names
    Parks
    Visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
    Learn more about D.C.’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial, including the powerful symbolism enshrined within the national park site.