COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Colorado Springs is receiving an inaugural Great American Defense Communities Award, acknowledging the unique contributions the city has made to improve the quality of life for our service members.

The Great American Defense Communities Program recognizes the important contributions cities make for service members, veterans and their families.

“It’s really designed to honor and recognize those communities that are going above and beyond in supporting the men and women that serve at military bases in their communities,” said Andy Merritt, the chief defense industry officer.

Colorado Springs is one of 10 communities nationwide to receive the inaugural award which focuses on the relationship between the community and military.

“From the beginnings of this award, we were the first community recognized for what we do,” said Merritt. “So in my mind, what it’s really saying is that we’re the standard bearer that other communities should be looking at and seeing how to do that relationship right.”

Military roots have been a part of Colorado Springs’ history since the community was founded in 1886. In 1941, Colorado Springs business leaders created the Military Affairs Council which bought and donated land now recognized as Fort Carson to the United States war department.

“Ever since then it’s really been community leaders and average men and women in the community here who have done things to help support that presence that’s led to the expansion, led to the Air Force Academy,” said Merritt.

More than 70 organizations in town work collaboratively with the military through family and health care needs and activity-based events.

“It’s the whole community who supports the military in this town,” said Merritt. “It’s not one organization, it’s not one individual that’s responsible for us winning this award. It’s the fact that this community rallies around the men and women and the needs over and over and over again.”

The award will be formally presented to the city in the coming months.

The inaugural class of Great American Defense Communities honorees includes:

  1. Colorado Springs, CO
  2. Dayton, OH
  3. Ft. Leonard Wood Region, MO
  4. Goldsboro, NC
  5. Grand Forks, N.D.
  6. Lawton, OK
  7. Flint Hills Region, KA
  8. Monterey, CA
  9. Okaloosa County, FL
  10. South Puget Sound, WA