On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Great War came to a close.

Nearly 100 years later, thousands endured the brisk winds Saturday in downtown Colorado Springs to commemorate the momentous occasion and salute the city’s military community at the annual Veterans Day Parade.

Armistice Day, which coincides with Veterans Day on Nov. 11, marks the signing of the treaty between the Allies and Germany in France. Though it is not well-known that Armistice Day is the predecessor to Veterans Day, Courtney Wall, executive assistant of the parade’s board of directors, said it shifted the way civilians regarded the military.

“Soldiers finally started to get the recognition for all the hard work they put in overseas,” Wall said.

Respect for the military is particularly distinct in Colorado Springs, given that the city and surrounding area is home to five military installations.

“The military presence is so large here, and not just those currently serving,” Wall said. “Retirees, families, private contractors, too. The parade is just one way we can say thank you and show them that they are appreciated here.”

As of February, Colorado Springs was home to 38,500 men and women in uniform, 16,000 Department of Defense civilians and 109,000 veterans, according to a memo from U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn’s office. The 5th Congressional District has the highest concentration of veterans of any district in the country, and is tied for the highest percentage of younger veterans.

Defense and aerospace operations also make up about half of the region’s economy with about $5 billion in economic impact. In 2017, this included $2.7 billion in defense contracts.

Erica Chapman’s family is a piece of that population. Her husband, James, is a former Marine, and she thinks it’s paramount for their five children to understand the importance of his service.

“It’s hard for them to understand the sacrifices these men and women make for them,” the Colorado Springs resident said. “We try to get them to be aware that they are blessed to go to school where they do and have what they have.”

She continued, “My husband tells stories of Afghanistan where he saw children younger than her (Chapman’s 5-year-old daughter) begging on the streets.”

The Chapmans have attended the Colorado Springs Veterans Day Parade every years since they moved to the Springs eight years ago. Chapman is encouraged by the turnout for the parade, seeing it as sign of what service means in the U.S.

John Lovett, a fifth-generation Coloradan, says the parade is a way to honor his family members who have served. Because of an injury at a young age, he was never able to enlist, though he “wanted to be out there with them.”

“Members of the military spend enough time doing for us what few want to do to protect our freedoms,” he said. “The more we can support the and let them know there are people here for them, the better it is for this town.”

Twitter: @lizmforster

Phone: 636-0193

Liz Forster is a general assignment reporter with a focus on environment and public safety. She is a Colorado College graduate, avid hiker and skier, and sweet potato enthusiast. Liz joined The Gazette in June 2017.

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