Thanking America’s Armed Forces

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Date: May 16, 2012
Contact: Paula Bauer

To show our appreciation for those who serve in the U.S. Military, on May 19 - Armed Forces Day - the National Park Service will begin issuing an annual pass offering free entrance to all 397 national parks for active duty military members and their dependents.

 "Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to our service men and women who make great sacrifices and put their lives on the lines to protect our country and preserve our freedom," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. "In recognition of their contributions and service, we are putting out a welcome mat for these brave men and women and their families at America's most beautiful and storied sites."

"For decades, military personnel and their families from bases and training centers around the region have enjoyed the wonders above and below ground at Carlsbad Caverns," stated Carlsbad Caverns National Park Superintendent John Benjamin. "We gladly and proudly welcome these brave individuals and hope more will explore all the tours and activities the park has to offer."

The new pass will be available at the Carlsbad Caverns Visitor Center ticket counter, starting at 8:00 a.m. Saturday May 19. Active duty members of the U.S. Military and their dependents will need to show proper identification (CAC Card or DD Form 1173) to receive a pass. The pass will be accepted at over 2,000 sites managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service.

At Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where per-person entrance fees are charged, the pass covers the owner of the card and three accompanying adults age 16 and older for the self-guided tours of Carlsbad Cavern - Natural Entrance and Big Room Routes. Entry for children 15 and younger is always free. Fees will still apply for ranger guided tours and audio guides.

While the military pass is not available to veterans and retirees, many of these individuals are eligible for other discounted passes, such as the Senior Pass, granting lifetime access to U.S. citizens over 62 for $10, and the Access Pass granting free lifetime access for permanently disabled U.S. citizens. For a description of all available passes, visit this website,

National parks and the military have strong ties going back to the establishment of Yellowstone as the world's first national park in 1872. The U.S. Cavalry watched over America's national parks and did double duty, serving as the first park rangers until the National Park Service was created 44 years later. During World War II, many parks were set aside for the training and care of military personnel. Today, dozens of national parks commemorate military battles and achievements.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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