Many veterans fought to protect their country on foreign soil, and now it's their homeland they want to protect.
According to the Vet Voice Foundation, the Land and Water Conservation Fund helps keep the outdoors open to everyone and especially is important for veterans who use the land as a place to recover after their service. However, it will expire at the end of September if Congress doesn't vote to reauthorize it.
Paul Eaton, a retired Army major general and managing director of Vet Voice, said the Land and Water Conservation Fund has protected parts of the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, Chickamauga National Military Park and more. He said these are places where all Americans can recuperate.
"A way that is at once inexpensive and very efficient to deal with a stressor, to work your way through a personal problem, is through introspection and in an environment where you see just how beautiful life can be," he said.
The program receives funding from energy-company royalties paid for oil and gas drilling. Funds also are used to build playgrounds, trails, parks, swimming pools, urban bike paths, soccer fields and more. More than 41,000 projects have been supported by the fund since its creation in 1965, including at least $81 million for Tennessee.
Eaton said he learned how to swim in a pool funded by the conservation fund. He praised the program for facilitating outdoor activities for kids and said Congress has a chance to continue to help young people if the program is reauthorized.
"They have in their hands the opportunity to instate, in permanence and full funding, an instrument that has helped more young Americans become better citizens than any other instrument that I can think of for a high return on investment," he said.
Funds also have helped preserve historic military sites, battlefields and monuments.
More information about the foundation is online at vetvoicefoundation.org.
Partner Station WMSR