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Junction City Honored as a Great American Defense Community

Junction City Honored as a Great American Defense Community Main Photo

31 May 2021


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This article originally appeared on Junction City-Geary County Kansas Economic Development Commission and was created for Junction City-Geary County Kansas Economic Development Commission by Golden Shovel Agency.

Because of its support of Fort Riley, Junction City, Kansas was named a Great American Defense Community in 2020. This award celebrates communities with an exceptional commitment to improving the lives of service members, veterans, and their families.

"Only five communicates are selected annually to receive the Grant American Defense Community Award amongst all military installations in the U.S., not just the Army, so it is a very select company," said Craig Bender, Military Affairs Council Director.

Defense communities and the towns, cities, counties, regions, and states that serve as home to the nation's military installations and industrial partners. In some cases, there may be more than one jurisdiction that serves as the community for a base, mission, or service members. For instance, this is the first time Junction City has been honored, but it is a part of the Flint Hills region which won it one time before, according to Bender.

"Communities across the country have found many ways to show service families they are welcome and appreciated in and outside the installation gate," said Mike Kelly, assistant vice president of Military Affairs at USAA.

Bender said it was a combination of programs that earned Junction City the honors this time. "We have done 'Welcome Home' events for our soldiers that have large turnouts of community members. We do a monthly Military Affairs Council breakfast where we bring the community and military personnel to break bread together and learn about community and military ideas and programs. We also have 'Spouse Welcome' where we bring a busload of military spouses into our community to learn about it."

"But our biggest program is probably 'Home Away From Home,' Bender said. "This program was started by former city commissioner/mayor, Phyllis Fitzgerald. The program pairs a brand new soldier to Fort Riley - and probably the Army - with a host family from the community. This allows the young military member to have a connection and an additional support channel that most installations don't have. The program has been a huge success and we've had hundreds of soldiers and families participate over the years."

Junction City, in turn, benefits greatly from Fort Riley. "Fort Riley is the biggest economic contributor to the Flint Hills region and Junction City/Geary County," Bender said. "I am nor sure we would be anywhere close to what we are without them. An example is the new $120 million high school that is being built and is set to open in August 2021. It was almost 50 percent funded through military-related dollars."

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