Q: What new lifetime benefit did the Trump administration announce for veterans?
A: The U.S. Secretary of Interior announced at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum in Johnston that starting on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2020, all U.S. veterans and Gold Star families will be given free entry into national parts, federal lands and wildlife refuges managed by the U.S. Department of Interior. This new, lifetime benefit provides free admission for millions of veterans and their families. Since 2012, the annual military pass allowed active-duty service members and their dependents, as well as veterans deemed by the Department of Veterans Affairs with 100 percent disability, to receive free admission to national parks. Starting Nov. 11, veterans will need to present identification to show their veteran status, such as a Defense Department ID card, VA identification card or a state-issued driver’s license that designates veteran status to receive free admission. According to the Interior Department, a Gold Star family is the next of kin of a service member who lost his or her life in the line of duty, including military combat outside the U.S., an international terrorist attack or in war. The Trump administration’s decision to provide free lifetime access is another example of its commitment to honor our veterans. What’s more, health professionals and veterans organizations say the great outdoors provides therapeutic benefits for veterans struggling with mental wellness, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Granting this lifetime benefit is the right thing to do and reflects the nation’s debt of gratitude to America’s patriots who sacrificed and served our nation in the U.S. Armed Forces. These brave men and women fought to defend our cherished freedoms in the public square and put their lives on the line to protect the United States of America, our people and public spaces. I hope Iowa veterans and Gold Star families will take advantage of their lifetime free admission to visit our nation’s scenic national parks. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, 188,867 veterans live in Iowa. They will have free admission to more than 2,000 public sites, including treasured crown jewels of America’s majestic spaces, such as Yellowstone National Park, Grand Canyon National Park and Mount Rushmore.
Q: What is the Veterans History Project?
A: Twenty years ago, Congress enacted legislation to create the Veterans History Project to record for posterity the heroism and patriotism of America’s heroes who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Library of Congress organizes, collects and documents stories from U.S. military veterans who served from World War I through the present. It has preserved more than 100,000 stories from our nation’s veterans. For the third consecutive year and in observance of Veterans Day, my office will record the stories of Iowa veterans as a public service and in appreciation of those who have answered the call to serve. It would be a shame to lose their stories to history. We can learn from the gritty, first-hand accounts of their service in the military and the important lessons it teaches current and future generations about sacrifice, service, duty, heroism and patriotism. Some also share about their transition into civilian life and the challenges and contributions they made to build strong families and strong communities long after they left the ranks of the U.S. Armed Forces. In 2018, we conducted more than a dozen interviews of Iowa veterans at the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum and last year we recorded biographical interviews of 11 Iowa veterans at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. This year, we’ll follow public health guidelines and host a series of interviews at the Waverly Area Veterans Post. Local veterans who served during Korea, Vietnam and in Afghanistan will share their stories for this project. To learn more about these Iowa veterans or how to participate in the Veterans History Project, visit my website or contact my office (202) 224-3744.
Veterans Day is celebrated Nov. 11 to honor our nation’s military veterans. Americans are invited to observe the federal holiday with ceremonies and tributes to those who have served.