It’s military appreciation week in the Pikes Peak region, and by the numbers, Colorado has plenty to be thankful for.
New research from the Pew Charitable Trust shows Colorado has one of the nation’s top military economies, with the state bringing in nearly $1,900 for every resident.
The military’s contribution locally means what’s celebrated elsewhere as Armed Forces Day is stretched out to a full week, with a string of events planned to honor local troops.
In the Pikes Peak region, home to 40,000 troops and as many as 100,000 veterans and military retirees, the military is responsible for 40 percent of the economy. Statewide, the military has a massive impact, with a state study estimating that more than $561 million in state tax revenue is tied to the military.
Military spending in Colorado is expected to grow substantially, with more troops on the way to Fort Carson and Schriever Air Force Base as Pentagon spending booms to $750 billion by 2020.
In Colorado Springs, there will be several ways to celebrate the military this week.
The top offering comes at 7 p.m. Tuesday, when the Air Force Academy Band hits the stage at the Pikes Peak Center with its “Champions of Freedom” concert.
“This year the Colorado Springs Chorale will join the Academy Band’s Concert Band in a program that honors our nation, its veterans, and the men and women in uniform who currently serve her,” the academy said in a news release.
Free tickets for the event were being distributed at the Pikes Peak center box office on a first-come basis.
On Thursday, military boosters will be joined by local troops for the annual Armed Forces Luncheon held by the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC.
That event brings together hundreds of locals alongside troops from area basis for a luncheon and an awards ceremony honoring the top enlisted troops in the region. It’s the oldest event of its kind in the nation, having started in the wake of World War II.
The military in Colorado Springs is an invited guest. On the eve of World War II, town fathers hatched a plan to buy up ranches south of the city for an Army base. That bunch, which has morphed into the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee, also wooed the Air Force Academy to town, kept Peterson Air Force Base around by continuing to share the Colorado Springs Airport and later drew Schriever Air Force Base to the region.
About the only thing locals haven’t done to show their love for the military was dig out the tunnels for Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station by hand.
With nearly half the families in town having some form of military tie, the love for troops here is deep and genuine.
But there’s another motive behind some of the celebration. The Pentagon is watching, and the town that shows the most love for its troops may have the best chance of landing more of them.
And with the Air Force mulling whether the new U.S. Space Command should be kept here or sent to the swamps of Alabama or the People’s Republic of California, local demonstrations of love and loyalty are being encouraged.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx