On this Veterans Day, it is important to keep some figures in mind:
Active Duty military personnel in Colorado (not accounting for deployments) equal almost 30,000 people.
Reserve and National Guard personnel add another 20,000.
Thousands of civilians are employed at Colorado military installations. For example, a 2006 estimate indicated Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs had 6,000 active personnel and employed 5,700 civilians.
There are approximately 446,000 veterans in Colorado, making up 10% of our state's population.
All of the people just mentioned have friends and/or family in Colorado.
These figures surprise many people, even those who are well aware of the extensive military presence in Colorado. Active duty, Reserve, National Guard, and veterans of all the services comprise more than 10% of the Colorado population. Yet some politicians and community activists overlook the concerns of active and former military personnel. Some may not be knowledgeable about military matters and therefore feel uncomfortable discussing them; others may simply not realize how large of a military population we have in Colorado. Either way, it is difficult to be successful and inclusive in this state without understanding the military and veterans.
We can honor these veterans and their active duty counterparts by paying attention to issues that concern them. We can cheer the good news, like the construction of a new veterans' hospital at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, the recent expansion of the GI Bill, Colorado's "Troops to Teachers" initiative, and the supportive environment on college campuses, even CU-Boulder.
There are also many charitable organizations for veterans in Colorado like the United Veterans Committee of Colorado, the Disabled American Veterans, and Paralyzed Veterans of America. Denver even hosts an excellent organization called Veterans for Green Jobs which, as its name indicates, helps to connect veterans with jobs in the green economy.
While there is good news in Colorado for veterans, we should also pay attention to what must be improved. It is unacceptable that some veterans have to wait until the end of the semester for GI Bill benefits. And new ways of cutting through the veterans' health care bureaucracy are always welcome.
But, perhaps the most important thing we all can do it stay informed about our military and veterans. We cannot have a serious conversation about Colorado's future without accounting for 10 percent of our population. In return for their sacrifices, many veterans merely ask that we educate ourselves about military issues. On this Veterans Day, we should not only acknowledge their service but resolve to understand their service.