Many servicemembers face a long road to transitioning to civilian life upon returning from combat. Although it can often be a struggle to go from the harsh environment of the battlefield to the civilian life, veterans turn to a wide variety of methods to help them cope. For former Marine Dan Hottle, that outlet turned out to be hiking in Yellowstone National Park, and he has since turned that love of nature into a fulfilling post-service job as a spokesman for the park, CNN Travel reports.
Yellowstone and the military
Hottle continues a long tradition of former service members making their way to Yellowstone. In fact, for the first 32 years of the park's existence, it was administered by the U.S. Army and many of its rangers were veterans. As Hottile indicates, that trend continues more than a century later. The job requires Hottle to live at Yellowstone, and for many months of the year, the unforgiving weather can be a challenge. However, the rural landscape is exactly what he likes and what he needed after returning home from Afghanistan more than a decade ago.
"Where I had just come from was so austere," he told CNN. "So the national parks were the perfect place to be by myself. It's the best thing I could do."
More than just Yellowstone
Although Yellowstone has a long history of employing servicemembers – it is the oldest national park, after all – but it is not the only park that is reaching out to military families. In fact, in 2012 the National Park Service gives military families the chance to see every park for free, according to The Associated Press. The pass, which usually costs $80, provides access to 2,000 locations across the U.S., and the move has been applauded by many advocates, including Dr. Jill Biden, who runs the Joining Forces initiative with first lady Michelle Obama.
"Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to our servicemen and women who make great sacrifices to protect our country and preserve our freedom," Biden announced at the launch of the program, according to the AP. "In recognition of their service, we are so pleased to be putting out a welcome mat for our military families at America's most beautiful and storied sites."