Proposal made to extend free access for veterans to all national parks
WASHINGTON – United States Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa testified before the House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday in support of bipartisan legislation that would give veterans and families Gold Star free lifetime access to national parks and federal Crown lands.
“No one is more worthy of having open access to the incredible places where these men and women fought to keep us and their families free who also made the ultimate sacrifice with them,” said the Republican of the ‘Iowa.
Miller-Meeks is a veteran and worked on the bill, the “Veterans in Parks Act,” with Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who is also a veteran.
“As a veteran, I know firsthand the importance of national parks as a place of connection and healing from the visible and invisible wounds of war,” Gallego said in a statement.
“The VIP Act is an important step in ensuring that veterans, military personnel and Gold Star families have access to the public lands for which they and their loved ones fought to protect. “
Last year, the US National Park Service made free annual visits to national parks for veterans and active duty members, but the bill, HR 4300, would codify this annual card into law, to be used throughout their life.
“We can never fully reimburse our veterans for their service and sacrifice, but we want to show our gratitude by giving them lifelong access to America’s beautiful landscapes,” Miller-Meeks said.
The bill would also give free annual passes to active-duty military personnel to national parks and federal public lands. Once these members retire, their passes can be converted to lifetime passes. A Gold Star family is an immediate family member of a member who has died in the line of duty.
Captain John Paluska, of Ottumwa, Iowa, testified before the panel in support of the bill.
He said between his deployments he often visited Yellowstone National Park “and found my freedom throughout the park.”
“There is something about connecting with nature in these parks that helps healing,” he said. “I will always carry the wounds of war with me wherever I go, but when I go to these beautiful places I can connect with one of the reasons I decided to serve – this amazing and beautiful country. . “