National Park Service News Release
November 6, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
National Parks Commemorate Veterans Day
WASHINGTON – In 1948, World War II veteran Earl Shaffer decided to “walk off the war” with a hike on the Appalachian Trail. Finding nature “a balm for my wounds and scars,” he traversed more than 2,000 miles of peaks and valleys in four months and became the first person to through hike the entire trail.
National parks, such as the Appalachian Trail, continue to soothe, inspire and provide recreational opportunities for all. And, on Veterans Day, November 11, every National Park Service entrance fee will be waived for everyone to commemorate the service of U.S. Armed Forces veterans.
“From frontier forts to battlefields and memorials, there are almost 100 national park sites with direct connections to the military,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We are committed to telling the story of our veterans. We must never forget their valor and their service to our country.”
The military has longstanding ties to national parks. In 1886, the First United States Cavalry was dispatched to Yellowstone to stop the vandalism, poaching, and trespassing that threatened the world’s first national park. The military continued to oversee several of the country’s earliest national parks until the National Park Service was established in 1916.
For generations, the military has conducted tactical training at sites including Gettysburg National Military Park and Prince William Forest Park. During World War II, Yosemite, Sequoia, the Grand Canyon, Denali, Hot Springs, and Carlsbad Caverns national parks hosted rest and rehabilitation camps for service members.
The tradition of providing veterans and active duty military members with opportunities for relaxation, recreation, and camaraderie in the great outdoors continues today. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has a military lodge and Lake Clark National Park has waterfront accommodations for wounded veterans. Yosemite, Everglades, and Grand Teton national parks, and Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway all regularly host outdoor excursions for veterans groups. And, in the spirit of Earl Shaffer, the “Walk off the War” program uses long distance hikes to help veterans transition from war time experiences.
On Veterans Day, many parks will also hold special events. Hear the story of America’s first top guns at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama. Visit the historic Nike Hercules Missile base – a remnant of the Cold War – in Everglades National Park. Witness an enlistment during a commemoration at Valley Forge. Tour Mammoth Cave and learn about its role in the War of 1812. Find more information about these and other events at www.nps.gov/findapark/military-honor.htm.
The National Park Service also salutes its 3,883 employees who have served in the military. Park Ranger James Pierce, a combat-wounded veteran who now works at the National Mall and Memorial Parks, including the new American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, said, “I am very proud to be part of the National Park Service where I can continue to serve and give back to my country, just in a different uniform. Working at national memorials that are dedicated to those who have fought and died for our freedom means everything to me.”
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 397 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at www.nps.gov.