Veteran Story: Frank J. La Spina

solder with kevlar near armored vehicle

Before becoming a ranger at Lake Mead National Recreation Area Frank J. La Spina served honorably in the Marine Corps, Army and Nevada Army National Guard, medically retiring as an Army sergeant first class.

La Spina, who is from Las Vegas, was injured on a tour in Afghanistan. While going through the Medical Evaluation Board, he joined a federal internship program and became a help desk specialist in Lake Mead’s IT department.

Upon his retirement in 2014, he accepted a position as a visitor use assistant (VUA).

“As any Veteran knows, making the transition from military life to civilian life can be difficult at times,” he said. “Military life is ingrained into you, becomes a very real and large part of who you are due to the structure and discipline of the military.

“NPS is sort of a quasi-military environment. We have structure, uniforms, standards of procedures, and policies. I am always in the military frame of mind, at the right place, at the right time, in the right uniform. Every service member and veteran know what this means,” he added.

Within two years as a VUA, La Spina was promoted to a lead VUA. He attributes his promotion to the many qualities he acquired while in the military.

“The Army Values are summed up in an acronym and are the foundation for every Soldier, LEADERSHIP. LEADERSHIP is: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. I live by these values, during and after my military service and now in my career with the NPS,” he said.

He enjoys his position at Lake Mead because of the “special” people that he works with and the friends he has made. He also enjoys the peace and serenity that can be found so close to the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas.

“It’s a vast and beautiful park to which most visitors have never experienced before in their lives. The desert landscaping of Lake Mead NRA is spectacular and impressive to the first-time visitor. Many, if not all, state that they have never witnessed anything like it. That is what makes Lake Mead NRA special, the wondrous and joyful reactions of our visitors,” he said.

As a VUA, La Spina welcomes the park’s millions of visitors who pass through the entrance station. In addition to sharing his favorite destinations in the park, he always emphasizes “safety first.”

“Come and enjoy our park, there is so much to do here and witness: hiking, camping, swimming, boating, fishing and so much more. “Just be prepared for any situation you might encounter, enjoying the activity you are doing here. Follow ALL the rules and regulations of the park for your safety and the safety of others. I look forward to seeing you soon!”

ranger stand beside a veteran outside at Lake Mead
soldier in dress uniform

La Spina’s Awards and Decorations

Meritorious Service Medal, 2nd award; Army Commendation Award, 2nd award; Army Achievement Award, 2nd award; Navy/Marine Combat Action Ribbon; Meritorious Unit Award, 3rd award; Army Good Conduct Medal; USMC Good Conduct Medal; Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, 2nd award; National Defense Service Medal w/ Bronze Service Star; NCO Professional Development Ribbon, 2nd award; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon, 2nd award; Armed Forces Reserve Medal w/ M Device; USN Sea Service Deployment Ribbon; NATO Medal; Kuwait Liberation Medal, (Saudi Arabia); Kuwait Liberation Medal, (Kuwait); Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Southwest Asia Service Medal w/ Three Bronze Service Stars; Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/ Two Campaign Stars; Iraq Campaign Medal w/ Three Campaign Stars.

Last updated: November 20, 2017