Formed through a partnership of the Pacific Historic Parks and the National Park Service, the Wounded Veterans in Parks program is all about the heroic individuals for whom it provides a unique opportunity. Wounded Veterans in Parks is an innovative means of giving wounded United States military veterans an opportunity to once again serve their nation. They’re given specialized training that enables them to participate in research and preservation of one of the most important sites of Pearl Harbor: the wreckage of the iconic battleship USS Arizona.

Wounded Veterans in Parks: A Meaningful Return to Service

Oil slick created by the Black Tears of USS Arizona

Oil slick created by the Black Tears of USS Arizona

Wounded Veterans in Parks has a clear goal: to study and protect USS Arizona where she lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. The program turns disabled veterans into underwater specialists with training as scientific scuba divers. One of the first projects of Wounded Veterans in Parks has been to study the rate of oil leaking from the sunken vessel. These droplets, known as the Black Tears of the Arizona, have been rising to the surface of the water since the ship exploded and sank on December 7, 1941, taking 1,177 men with her.

As the years go by, the wreckage of USS Arizona requires constant maintenance to ensure she isn’t destroyed by the elements.

According to Dave Conlin, Chief Archaeologist for the National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center, the idea to give disabled veterans the chance at helping study and preserve Arizona came from a simple fact: more than most people, they understand the true meaning of the battleship and the sacrifice of the men who gave their lives when she was attacked. The program works with the Wounded American Veterans Experience Scuba (WAVES) Project to prepare veterans for their scuba experience. They’re paired with a dive companion and given a focused overview on the methods of cleaning and staying safe while underwater. Thanks to the Wounded American Veterans Experience Scuba Project, this all comes without any cost to the participating veteran.

A Win-Win for the Nation and for Our Wounded Vets

A Wounded Veterans in Parks participant pays respects on board the USS Arizona Memorial

A Wounded Veterans in Parks participant pays respects on board the USS Arizona Memorial (image credit: Pacific Historic Parks)

The Wounded Veterans in Parks program offers two significant benefits. First, it provides disabled veterans with a meaningful opportunity to serve their country in a new way, partnering with the National Park Service in the ongoing management of one of the nation’s most prominent symbols of sacrifice and valor. Second, the program ensures that USS Arizona continues to be studied and preserved for generations to come.

featured image credit: Pacific Historic Parks

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