Story and photos by Walt Johnson
The Fort Carson community stood tall and proud July 8 at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs as the 69th annual Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo recognized the service to the nation by the post family.
The partnership between the rodeo and the military community in Colorado Springs is second to none. Since the end of World War II, the rodeo’s proceeds have gone to Colorado Springs military and community charities. The rodeo has contributed more than $1.5 million to military charities, which include the Fort Carson Outreach Program.
Rodeo officials said they are “proud that they are an active supporter of the military community and their Families for the past 69 years.”
The military community also should be proud of what it does to support Colorado Springs, according to rodeo officials.
The Colorado Springs Rotary International club didn’t waste any time recognizing how proud it was of the military community. Prior to the start of the rodeo, a ceremony was held to recognize members of the Mountain Post community that were selected by unit commanders and senior noncommissioned officers. The 50 Soldiers were selected to be representatives of the entire Mountain Post community, and each received a Rotary Club medal from Maj. Gen. Mark A. Graham, commanding general, Division West (First Army) and Fort Carson, and Command
Sgt. Maj. Terry Young. Graham thanked the Rotary Club for recognizing the men and women who represented the post, and, as he verbally saluted the Soldiers, encouraged the community to join him in the salute – which was warmly received by the Soldiers and their Families in attendance.
After the awards ceremony, the Soldiers got a few minutes to walk around and soak up the festivities of the evening. Many in the crowd shook the
Soldiers’ hands and offered them thanks for their commitment to defending the nation. About 30 minutes before the start of the rodeo, the Soldiers gathered on the north end of the stadium to get briefed on their role in the upcoming prerodeo ceremonies. Nothing in that briefing could prepare them for the reception they would get when the troops walked into the stadium.
As the 7 p.m. prerodeo festivities time drew near, the buzz in the arena for the rodeo was what one would have expected. Seeing the cowboys and the animals in the stalls signalled there was a big evening planned and people were excited to get the evening started. The buzz in the stadium erupted into loud cheering and applause for the nation’s warriors as the troops marched sharply into the arena’s north end.
Prior to the national anthem, rodeo officials introduced Graham, who had great words of praise for the rodeo and the Soldiers who stood in the stadium.
“You know 2009 is the Year of the Noncommissioned Officer in the U.S. Army, the backbone of the Army. The noncommissioned officers are what keep us going every day we serve our nation. Tonight we celebrate the noncommissioned officers, and I thank you for celebrating with them, and I thank you for supporting the young Soldiers that are representing America’s sons and daughters that are defending freedom around the world. Fort Carson has more than 8,000 Soldiers deployed tonight in harm’s way in Afghanistan and Iraq. I ask you to join me in applauding our soldiers (the crowd again gave the Soldiers a thunderous applause). I also ask you to remember the Families of the
Soldiers that have fallen,” Graham said.