The Times and Democrat’s recent “Stories of honor” series focusing on those having served the country in its armed forces culminated with an event bringing together the veterans for an appreciation ceremony.

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South Carolina State University, which this past weekend as part of homecoming celebrated its tradition as the leading historically black university for producing Army officers, was the host and sponsor for the event. S.C. State President James Clark told all that he is proud of the institution’s military legacy and will foster it. Then he joined in honoring each of the veterans featured in the series, many of whom thanked S.C. State and offered words about their service and the need for the country to better care for those who cared enough to serve for all of us.

We join in thanking S.C. State and its Bulldog Battalion ROTC program for building on its military history in a state that has a rich military history. And the military connection here continues to grow.

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The South Carolina Military Base Task Force, which is part of the South Carolina Department of Veterans’ Affairs, recently released the report, The Economic Impact of S.C. Military Community: 2019 Update. It found that the total economic impact of South Carolina’s military community now surpasses $25.3 billion annually.

The updated number includes the economic activity generated through TRICARE, which adds $1.2 billion in economic input to the $24.1 billion of economic impacted reported in 2017. TRICARE is a health care program utilized by service members, veterans and their families.

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“South Carolina’s military community is deserving of our respect and admiration, not solely because of the tremendous sacrifices they make for us, but also because of what they bring to our state on a daily basis,” Gov. Henry McMaster said. “This report is further proof that South Carolina simply wouldn’t be what it is today without our rich military history and the men and women who choose to serve in the armed forces.”

“The military community represents a major economic sector for South Carolina,” said Bill Bethea, chairman of the Task Force. “This impact is felt throughout the state as well as in those communities that host military installations, because military retirees using TRICARE health benefits live in every county. The economic impact of TRICARE supports 9,672 jobs and $552.8 million in labor income to the state.”

Recent mission and military contractor expansions are contributing to the growth of South Carolina’s military community. Shaw Air Force Base now hosts a MQ-9 Reaper Support unit that includes approximately 300 airmen and their families. The infrastructure to support this remotely piloted operations and support group has generated a $15 million capital investment to date. Planned construction starting January 2020 will expand the permanent facilities for these squadrons.

In Greenville, Lockheed Martin will begin manufacturing the F-16 Block 70 aircraft later this year. A $25 million investment supports these defense contracts, with 400 new jobs projected. Approved F-16 contracts to date total $3.52 billion.

The update of the economic impact of South Carolina’s military community also identified that the state is home 191,519 military-related jobs.

S.C. State welcomes to its ranks those wanting to become a part of the military tradition of the university and the state. It is a key player in a South Carolina that appreciates the expanding role of the military here and welcomes veterans to call our great state their home.

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