Active-Duty Military, Veterans, Gold Star Families Now Have Free Access to National Parks and Other Federal Lands

By Nathan Worcester
Nathan Worcester
Nathan Worcester
Nathan Worcester covers national politics for The Epoch Times and has also focused on energy and the environment. Nathan has written about everything from fusion energy and ESG to Biden's classified documents and international conservative politics. He lives and works in Chicago. Nathan can be reached at
January 6, 2022Updated: January 9, 2022

U.S. military veterans, active-duty service members, and Gold Star families will have permanent free access to U.S. national parks and other federal recreational lands under the Alexander Lofgren Veterans in Parks (VIP) Act, which is part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2021.

“We can never fully repay our veterans for their service and sacrifice, but we want to show our gratitude by giving them lifetime access to America’s beautiful landscapes,” Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), who introduced the legislation in the House, said in a statement sent to The Epoch Times.

“My Alexander Lofgren VIP will give all of our amazing veterans, Gold Star families, and active-duty soldiers access to all of our national parks for life,” she said. “We often say that we support the physical and mental health of our veterans, and it is great to see legislation pass that will do great things for the health of our heroes. As a 24-year Army veteran and a doctor, I am proud to have gotten my legislation signed into law.”

The measure honors Alexander Lofgren, a veteran of the Afghanistan War who died after becoming stranded in Death Valley National Park during an April 2021 camping trip with his girlfriend, Emily Henkel. Henkel was hospitalized but survived.

Lofgren had been an aide to Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee.

In a joint statement released on Dec. 28, 2021, the Lofgren family and Grijalva celebrated the signing of the measure into law.

Grijalva said: “Alex was part of our extended family, and we miss him deeply. He dedicated his time to serving fellow veterans and loved our national parks and sharing the peace that it brought him with others. With the signing of this law, now we permanently give the gift of free entry to national parks to our veterans and Gold Star families to use nature to help with their healing.”

Retired Col. Joseph Lofgren and other members of the Lofgren family said in the statement: “As an advocate for veterans, a military family member and veteran himself, Alexander’s wish to make National Parks accessible to veterans and Gold Star families has been realized through this act.”

Patrick Murray, the legislative director for Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), told The Epoch Times that the act is a “slam dunk.”

“Everybody thinks this is a great idea, and some really great people are going to benefit from it,” he said. “Veterans is a really nice space where Washington, D.C., still comes and works together for the right purpose.”

He says he has heard that some veterans in the West, near many of the United States’ most famous national parks, are aware of the law and ready to take advantage of their free lifetime access.

“I hope word gets out to active-duty troops as well,” he said.