Today, Dr. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert), joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, introduced the Wounded Veterans Recreation Act of 2014. This legislation provides a no-cost, lifetime pass for entry into 2,000 national parks and federal recreation lands for veterans living with service-connected disabilities.
"National parks preserve and commemorate our heritage, ideals, and sacred sites that American servicemembers have defended since the foundation of our great nation," said Dr. Raul Ruiz (CA-36). "The service of our nation's veterans, past and present, is the centerpiece of many of our national parks and this bipartisan bill will ensure disabled veterans have the opportunity to enjoy and frequent those sites at no-cost. Additionally, National parks give our vets the opportunity to connect with nature and to exercise, which leads to better spiritual, mental, and physical health."
"National parks have long reminded military members of the America they defend and the values they stand to protect. Offering our wounded warriors who defended this great nation free access to the national parks that define America is a small token of thanks for the sacrifices made by the women and men who have served in the United States military," said Rep. Kristi Noem (SD-At Large).
"We can never fully repay the debt that we owe the men and women who served. But offering disabled veterans free, lifetime access to our national parks to help them enjoy the beauty of the country they fought to protect is one more way to say "thank you' on behalf of a grateful nation," said Rep. Ron Kind (WI-3). "As a founding member and co-chair of the National Parks Caucus and a staunch advocate for all of our men and women in uniform, I'm proud to support this expression of gratitude for our wounded veterans."
"This land we love and hold dear represents the best of our great nation. Whether you're rich or poor, young or old, from a big city or the family farm, each and every one of us owns a piece of these national parks," said Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN). "Allowing our nation's wounded warriors free access to these lands, the land they fought to protect, only makes sense and is a small token of appreciation for their service."
"As the father of a veteran and having worked at a VA hospital in Northern Michigan for 20 years, I know the extraordinary sacrifices our veterans have made to keep our nation safe. This bipartisan measure is a common sense way of showing some of our gratitude toward our vets. Northern Michigan is blessed to be home to four national park areas and I am confident this measure will make it a little easier for our veterans to enjoy these amazing parts of our nation," said Rep. Dan Benishek M.D. (MI-1), a general surgeon and Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health.
"Our service men and women have sacrificed so much to preserve and protect our quality of life in America. This small gesture to improve their quality of life is the least we can do," said Rep. Jim Langevin (RI-2). "The Wounded Veterans Recreation Act is just one of the many ways we should say thank you to our veterans."
"Our armed service members place themselves in harm's way around the world so that we can be safe at home. The least we can do when their service ends is ensure access to America's national treasures, which they fought so hard to protect. The Wounded Veterans Recreation Act will do just that, and I'm proud to be a part of this effort to thank the men and women who have done so much for our country," said Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27).
"I have worked hard to insure that all veterans are able to transition smoothly in to civilian life - giving our veterans access to national parks will aid with this transition," said Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17).
"We owe so much to the men and women of our military, especially those who have sacrificed their safety and well-being in conflicts around the globe," said Rep. Don Young (R-AK). "This legislation recognizes a growing group of military veterans who fought to protect the freedoms we all know today. Opening up our federal recreational lands and waters is the least we can do, and only one small effort in showing our major appreciation."
The Wounded Veterans Recreation Act of 2014 makes all disabled veterans eligible for a lifetime pass that would give them entry to the 2,000 national parks and federal recreational lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation. According to the 2011 U.S. Census, there are 21.5 million military veterans in the U.S. Of this number, 3.5 million veterans are living with a service-connected disability.
Original co-sponsors of The Wounded Veterans Recreation Act of 2014 include: Dr. Ruiz (CA-36), Rep. Don Young (AK-At Large), Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-02), Rep. Steven Horsford (NV-04), Rep. Tim Ryan (OH-13), Rep. Mike Honda (CA-17), Rep. James R. Langevin (RI-02), Rep. Kristi Noem (SD-At Large), Rep. Steve Israel (NY-03), Rep. Dan Benishek (MI-01), Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), Rep. Shea-Porter (NH-01), Rep. John Conyers (MI-13), Rep. Tim Walz (MN-01), Rep. Henry C. Johnson (GA-04), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Rep. Madeline Bordallo (GU), Rep. John Garamendi (CA-03), Rep. Mark Takano (CA-41), Rep. Ron Kind (WI-03).