DOINews: USFWS' National Elk Refuge Issues First Military Pass on Memorial Day Weekend

Last edited 09/05/2019

Refuge volunteer Betty Mulcahy sitting at a table with Joshua and Kanha Aisel as they fill out paperwork.
Refuge volunteer Betty Mulcahy (far right) helps Staff Sgt. Joshua Aisel and his wife, Kanha, complete the paperwork to be the first party receiving an active U.S. Military Federal lands pass from the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center. Photo by Lori Iverson, USFWS.

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service, and many celebrations recognizing the holiday also honor service men and women who have served in previous wars or are currently in active duty status. This past Memorial Day weekend, National Elk Refuge staff had the opportunity to show their appreciation to six visiting military families by issuing new passes that will grant them free entrance to national wildlife refuges, national parks, and other federal lands for a full year.

The America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is a long-standing program that offers U.S. citizens a suite of annual and lifetime passes to access federal recreation lands. On May 19, the program expanded,adding a pass that is available to active duty military members and their dependents. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent out an announcement describing the new pass on May 16, with individual refuges sending out site-specific news releases that same day to announce the availability of the passes at their location. The National Elk Refuge was one of those stations.

“I'm not sure how the National Elk Refuge news release made it to Ogden, Utah,” explained Staff Sgt. Joshua Aisel,who is stationed at the Browning U.S. Army Reserve Center, 240 miles south of Jackson,Wyo. “I received it from my Sergeant Major. The timing was perfect.” Aisel called National Elk Refuge outdoor recreation planner Lori Iverson just days after the refuge's news release was issued, noting that he and five of his close military friends and families were heading to Jackson in a few days to spend time together over the holiday weekend. Aisel was seeking additional information for members of his party to obtain their passes, a token of appreciation they could put to immediate use as their weekend plans included trips to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Iverson arranged to meet the families at the Jackson Hole Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center and photograph the first military pass issued from the National Elk Refuge.

“It just seemed like such a great story,” Iverson said. “All six of the men in the group are a close knit bunch. They wanted to have one last weekend together with their families before they're reassigned.” Most of the group has recently returned from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all are scheduled for a permanent station change after spending an average of three years in Ogden. One will head to Germany, another to California, while three are still awaiting their reassignment. Aisel is leaving for Ohio in just a few weeks. “The fact that we issued that first military pass on Memorial Day weekend made it all the more special,” Iverson added. “We were pleased to be able to reward the incredible dedication it takes to serve our country.”

Despite cloudy skies, snowfall, and wind over the weekend, the group enjoyed their stay in Jackson Hole. “When you're with friends, the weather doesn't really matter,” Aisel explained. “It was a pretty special weekend.” Aisel added that he and his wife, Kanha, look forward to using their federal lands pass to explore recreation areas near their new Ohio home

By: Lori Iverson, outdoor recreation planner, National Elk Refuge, USFWS

May 30, 2012

Important Links:

Related DOI news release

USFWS-Elk National Elk Refuge

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