Last Spring, I was sitting outside after work with some colleagues enjoying the beautiful weather when I received a call from my little brother, Kevin. He was calling to share the news that he would soon deploy to Afghanistan.
Just days before, we heard about his best friend who was deploying to Iraq, and I remember being thankful that it wasn't Kevin. He joined the Army right out of high school, and almost two years had passed. I honestly believed that he would make it through his four-year commitment without having to go overseas. As his older sister, I can't help but be protective of him. Kevin has been gone for almost six months, and I am proud of his courage every single day. I am especially proud today as we honor all those who have served in an effort to protect our country.
There are several ways that people can honor those who have served and currently serve in our military. Just one of the powerful ways to show our appreciation is to visit one of the many national parks that honor our veterans. Before working at the National Park Foundation, I probably would not have made the connection between Veterans Day and the national parks, but there are actually several units in the park system that honor our military heroes. Many are right by me in Washington, D.C., but there are many more all around the country. These parks commemorate those who served from the Revolutionary War, like Valley Forge National Historical Park, through present day with the Flight 93 National Memorial. You can check out an entire list at http://cr.nps.gov/nr/feature/va/#parks.
Take some time to celebrate Veterans Day by visiting a park near you. They are even free! The National Park Service offers several fee-free dates throughout the year, including this weekend, November 11-13, 2011.
To all those military men and women serving our country – past, present, and future - thank you for the sacrifices you make to defend the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. We honor you today and every day.