Veterans Come to DC to Urge Protection of Our National Parks

Group delivers letter to lawmakers, meets with Secretary Zinke

Veterans

Veterans gather outside an office on Capitol Hill to deliver a letter urging support for a bill to fund repairs at national parks.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

More than a dozen veterans representing 10 states and the District of Columbia took a message to Capitol Hill this week: Restore America’s national parks.

The group delivered a letter to lawmakers urging them to pass the National Park Service Legacy Act, bipartisan legislation that would dedicate annual federal funds to park maintenance. The letter, signed by over 500 veterans’ groups and individuals, said investment is needed to restore and maintain park sites that honor the sacrifices of servicemen and women. 

The veterans also met with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and proponent of addressing the park service’s $11.3 billion maintenance backlog.

Ryan Cox

Montanan Ryan Cox delivers a letter from veterans asking the Trump administration and Congress to provide reliable funding for park maintenance.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

Army veteran Robin Eckstein of Oregon, who served in Iraq in 2003 with the 1st Armored Division and has post-traumatic stress disorder, said that visiting parks has helped her heal.

“War sucks the humanity out of you,” Eckstein said. “The healing that I have been able to find has been in our national parks.” 

The 156 sites that commemorate our military history require $6 billion in repairs. They include:

  • 25 national battlefields and parks and 14 national cemeteries. Gettysburg National Military Park, site of the largest number of Civil War casualties, needs more than $51 million.
  • Nearly 500 fortifications. Fort McHenry, which inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner,” has $3.8 million in deferred maintenance.

The veterans’ letters to Secretary Zinke can be viewed here, and their letter to Congress can be viewed here.

Marcia Argust directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ campaign to restore America’s parks.

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