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Sinema, Grijalva work to pass bill in honor of late congressional staffer

TUCSON (KVOA) - Alexander Lofgren loved the outdoors.

In April, he and his girlfriend, Emily Henkel were on a hiking trip in Death Valley when the accident happened. Emily said Alex lost his grip on a rock face and fell 70 feet.

Emily somehow got down to be with her boyfriend in his final minutes. Lofgren was only 32.

"I just knew I wanted and needed to be with him," Henkel said. "I spent the next 30 minutes or that he was with us just comforting him and just being with him in every way that I could."

Lofgren was a veteran who worked as a staffer for Rep. Raul Grijalva. Before that, he worked on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's staff when Arizona's senior senator was in the House.

Both Sinema and Grijalva are working to push through the Alexander Lofgren Veterans in National Parks Act.

The bill would allow service members, veterans and Gold Star families into our national parks and national lands for free.  

"Alexander Lofgren was a beloved member of Team Sinema," Sinema said. "He served on our Veterans Advisory Council and helped me make decisions about what bills to introduce. So, his loss was just heartbreaking for me and it's a tiny, tiny token of a way to remember Alex's contribution to our state and to our country."

"I just don't think there's any way we can memorialize Alex any better," Henkel said. "I never saw him more joyful and happier than when we were visiting parks together. It just became kind of the foundation of our relationship. This is exactly what he was passionate about, helping veterans and enjoying nature."

Henkel is hopeful Congress can come together and pass this legislation to pay tribute to her partner's service and the life he led. Alex was the person Emily describes as the one you would always want in your corner.

"He would make sure you were happy, healthy, safe, protected," she said. "He was just wholesome, fantastic friend, amazing son, amazing grandson and even more an amazing life partner."

The bill passed the House at the end of July.

Sinema hopes she and her colleagues will soon vote on the legislation on the Senate floor.

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Eric Fink

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