It’s no secret that nature helps sooth a troubled mind. Consider spending an afternoon at a state park with a veteran this Veterans Day where the "awe" factor increases as the stress level decreases.
"A state park visit can provide a healthy dose of nature therapy," said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota State Park and Trails. "All park visitors benefit from time outdoors and for those exposed to a lot of stress, the benefits can be especially acute."
Free year-round vehicle permits, providing unlimited access to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, are now available to:
- active military personnel in any branch or unit of the United States Armed Forces.
- veterans with a service-related disability.
These benefits were approved by Minnesota lawmakers in 2017.
Studies done by the Warrior Institute, Outward Bound, Sierra Club and others show that outdoor recreation enhances emotional, physical and physiological well-being. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the leading injury for American veterans. An estimated 30 percent of Vietnam War veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime, and 20 percent of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It is estimated that less than 30 percent of veterans with mental health issues, however, will seek help.
"People generally find it difficult to seek help for mental health issues," said Jodi Dehn, who is the DNR Yellow Ribbon Program Military Outreach Representative.
An antidote to trauma can start with something as simple as more time spent outdoors. "The cost is minimal but the effect can be substantial," she said. The Yellow Ribbon Program designation acknowledges companies and agencies with exceptional and ongoing records of caring, commitment and compassion for military members and their families.
Special programs taking place at Minnesota state parks on or near Veterans Day include:
- Whitewater’s German POW Camp, 7-8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Whitewater State Park (near Winona). Whitewater State Park once served as a prison to World War II Prisoners of War. This presentation explains how they got there, where they went later, and what life was like at the camp. For more information, call 507-312-2300.
- Veterans in the Vicinity, 11 a.m.-noon, Sunday, Nov. 11, at Sibley State Park (New London). The land at and near Sibley State Park was a site of conflict during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Join a naturalist on Veteran’s Day to remember and honor all veterans with ties to West Central Minnesota and Sibley State Park. Meet at the Lakeview Campground. For more information, call 320-354-2055.
To see all licenses, permits and passes that are available to military personnel and veterans, and the form of identification that an individual needs to show, visit www.mndnr.gov.
The DNR is recognized as a Yellow Ribbon Company for its support of active and retired military personnel and their families.
For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at [email protected] or 888-646-6367 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday).