Special Report

This Is the American City Where the Most People Are in the Military

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15. New Bern, NC
> Military members and their families: 10.3% of pop. (12,819)
> Largest military base: Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station
> Service branch with largest presence: Marine Corps
> Veterans: 11.9% of pop. (14,842)

New Bern, North Carolina, is one of only 15 metro areas in the United States in which one in every 10 residents, nearly 13,000 people, are either active duty military or a military family member. Most of the military personnel in the metro area serve at the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, located less than 20 miles south of downtown New Bern.

The Cherry Point military base, which was established in 1942, was named a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1994 due to contaminated groundwater, surface water, and soil. The contamination is attributed to waste waste disposal and storage practices at the base. The U.S. Navy is currently spearheading efforts to clean up the contamination under the oversight of the EPA.

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14. Colorado Springs, CO
> Military members and their families: 10.3% of pop. (77,139)
> Largest military base: Fort Carson
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 11.7% of pop. (87,577)

Of the 745,791 Americans living in the Colorado Springs metro area, 77,139 are active duty military servicemen and servicewomen and their families. The high concentration of military personnel in the city is due to the presence of several bases, including Peterson Air Force Base and Schriever Air Force Base.

The largest base in the metro area, however, is the Fort Carson Army Base. Nearly 25,000 soldiers and 33,000 of their dependents are assigned to the base. Fort Carson alone is estimated to have a $2.4 billion economic impact on the area annually.

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13. Urban Honolulu, HI
> Military members and their families: 10.4% of pop. (101,603)
> Largest military base: Schofield Barracks
> Service branch with largest presence: Army
> Veterans: 6.6% of pop. (63,914)

Of the nearly 975,000 people living in the Honolulu metro area, 10.4% are active duty military and their families. Often, cities with a large military presence are dominated by a single branch of the services. Honolulu, however, hosts multiple bases and is home to thousands of troops from each of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine service branches. The largest base in the metro area by personnel — including both active-duty service members and their dependents — is the Army’s Schofield Barracks, followed by the Pearl Harbor Naval Base.

The military presence in Honolulu has a significant cultural and economic impact on the community. In fiscal 2018, DoD direct spending added $7.2 billion to Hawaii’s economy. Over half of that spending went to local businesses.

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12. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
> Military members and their families: 10.8% of pop. (191,109)
> Largest military base: Norfolk Naval Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Navy
> Veterans: 11.1% of pop. (196,519)

Active-duty personnel serving at Norfolk Naval Base and their dependents account for 109,000 of Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News population, more than any other base under the purview of the U.S. Navy. With the additional presence of several other naval bases, as well as the Fort Story Army base, there are over 191,000 troops and their families living in the Virginia Beach metro area — equal to 10.8% of the total population.

The military’s impact on the local economy and culture does not stop there. Defense contractor Newport News Shipbuilding — the only company that builds nuclear powered aircraft carriers and one of only two capable of building nuclear submarines — is also located in the metro area. Virginia Beach is also home to over 196,000 veterans.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

11. Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL
> Military members and their families: 14.3% of pop. (40,818)
> Largest military base: Eglin Air Force Base
> Service branch with largest presence: Air Force
> Veterans: 12.8% of pop. (36,431)

There are about 284,800 people living in the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, Florida, metro area — and 14.3% of them are military members and their families. Military personnel in the area, located on Florida’s panhandle, are exclusively members of the Air Force and assigned to either Hurlburt Field or Eglin Air Force Base.

Eglin AFB, the larger of the two local Air Force installments, has an estimated annual economic impact of $2.75 billion. Hurlburt Field, meanwhile, contributes just over $1 billion to the local economy annually.

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