A veteran’s legacy gives all veterans and Gold Star Families free, lifetime access to national parks

by | Nov 10, 2022 | Travel

Emily Henkel vividly remembers the first time her late fiancé, Alexander Lofgren, found peace in the outdoors. They had gone camping at one of her favorite spots in Prescott, Arizona. Lying in a hammock, staring up at the sky amid ponderosa pines, she spotted a tear rolling down his cheek.”I was like, ‘Are you all right?… Is something wrong?’ ” she recalled. It was early in their relationship, and they were still learning about each other. “He expressed that this was just the most at peace he had been in a really long time.”Lofgren served four years in the Army and was deployed to Afghanistan as a combat engineer before being honorably medically discharged. Henkel said he was already on a healing journey when they met years later, but two things fueled him further: experiencing nature and helping fellow veterans as a congressional aide for Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz.Veterans Day is a free entry day for all visitors to America’s national parks, but starting this Veterans Day, a new law in Lofgren’s name will bridge his passions and grant all veterans and Gold Star Families free lifetime access to national parks and public lands.’They paved the way’:How Buffalo Soldiers shaped America’s national parksVeterans Day freebies:Deals at Starbucks, Applebee’s, Outback, IHOP and more for veterans Free parks for life”We have a sacred obligation to America’s veterans,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, whose dad served during the Vietnam War, said in a statement. “This new lifetime pass is a small demonstration of our nation’s gratitude and support for those who have selflessly served in the U.S. Armed Forces.”To obtain a pass, veterans may present a Department of Defense ID Card, Veteran Health ID, Veteran ID Card, or state-issued U.S. driver’s license or ID card with a veteran’s designation at participating locations. Gold Star Families, who’ve lost an immediate family member in the line of service, may self-certify their identities with a voucher. Passes may also be ordered online, but there is a $10 shipping fee for online orders.The pass covers entry fees for the pass holder as well as companions in the same private car or three other adults, where per-person fees are charged.”This is going to be so impactful for so many people because I know how much it was for Alex,” Henkel said.Finding purpose after loss Lofgren died last year in an accident at Death Valley National Park, which Henkel opens about in a new Goal Zero film called “Power Moves: Finding Purpose.” In it, she describes how they set out looking for help after her car got two flat tires on a remote road, how Lofgren lost his grip and fell while looking for a way forward, how she fell and broke her …

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