Wisconsin is a great place not only for soon-to-be veterans, but also for their entire family. In support of transitioning service members, the Badger State offers countless resources and programs to help veterans and their loved ones achieve their definition of success. In fact, Wisconsin offers more veteran benefits than any other state and has an unmatched appreciation for veterans and their families.
Veterans in Wisconsin can take advantage of the many economic, cultural and recreational attributes that have already created an exceptional quality of life for more than 350,000 veterans who reside here. Able to attest to this is U.S. Air Force veteran Jen Cornelius, who offers a unique perspective on the benefits of moving to Wisconsin upon completion of military service.
When her family’s service time came to an end, Jen faced one of the most important decisions of her life: where would her family move to and start their next chapter? After extensively researching the benefits and resources available to veterans in Wisconsin, the answer became simple. After living in Wisconsin for more than a year after their military service concluded, Jen and her spouse, newly retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Kristopher Cornelius, find the opportunities available to them in Wisconsin are endless.
Learn more about why moving to Wisconsin allowed the Cornelius’ to thrive in the Q&A below:
In Wisconsin: Why did you and your family decide to move to Wisconsin following your military service?
Jen Cornelius: Making a decision to move from the comfort of a military base with all of the support, guidance, job security, a community that you know and a structured environment was a very difficult one. The things we didn’t have control over were part of my deciding factors as a veteran, and also as a military spouse. My family’s roots running through Wisconsin also made the decision feel like icing on the cake.
I noticed that in Wisconsin, there was a big appreciation for military, and service members’ work ethic was recognized.
Without having confidence that my future employer not only saw my education, but also took my experiences as a military veteran and spouse into consideration, I would have had little to show on paper. The “whole” of the person matters, too, and I felt a difference in attitude while searching for jobs in other states.
Wisconsin just fit our family’s personalities. The “work hard, play hard” attitude of Wisconsinites is unparalleled. Of course, work ethic is important, but the working lifestyle is balanced with a high quality of life. There’s a ton of access to outdoor activities, festivals, four-season living, concerts, sports and entertainment venues, great food, and the investment in wellness and activities to reward for a job well done. Whether you’re a big city or small town person, Wisconsin makes it easy to get the feel of a metropolitan area, but a much more rural feel is just a short drive away. A short commute is all it takes to go from a big city to peace and quiet.
Having a child in high school, we also took the amazing public education, universities, job training and apprenticeship opportunities into consideration. They truly are top-notch and could accommodate my child’s educational diversity, as she’s attended many different schools with us both serving in the military. And Wisconsin’s higher education system is one of the largest public higher education systems in America.
Wisconsin’s tax-free military retirement gave us a great bang for our buck, and the support for veterans here was apparent to me from the very first day. There are quick and caring people at every step in the process to guide and mentor us.
Overall, our family is pleasantly satisfied, supported and so very happy in our decision to move to Wisconsin. People here are some of the kindest you’ll ever meet. It’s not unusual to have the door held open for you everywhere you go, or to have a total stranger greet you and ask you how your day is going.
In Wisconsin: What things are available to veterans and military families in Wisconsin that otherwise are not typically available in other states?
JC: I’ve been able to learn about many benefits Wisconsin offers its veterans and their families. There are property tax credits, tons of job and employment services, apprenticeships and on-the-job training opportunities, housing benefits and assistance, educational benefits, hunting and fishing licenses and much more that’s simply not available to veterans in other states.
For me, the encouragement for furthering my education is by far the most amazing thing. The Wisconsin G.I. Bill, which differs from the Federal G.I. Bill and allows eligible veterans, their spouses and dependent children to access free tuition at many colleges and universities in the state, is the best gift I’ve ever received for my family and myself.
In Wisconsin: As a service member, what type of things did you consider when you were transitioning into civilian life?
JC: We used every moment of the one year the Army gave us to educate and prepare ourselves for the transition. We started with the classes the transition programs offered. Whether we liked it or not, we accomplished the tasks assigned to us for budgeting, resume building, health care, the VA rating information and the list goes on. Every one of those things had a direct impact on our decision.
In Wisconsin: As not only a veteran, but also as a military spouse, were there things or support systems that were in place in Wisconsin that you could lean on if/when needed?
JC: I utilized so many people to answer all of my questions, and I definitely had a lot of them! In Wisconsin, there are military units that have Family Readiness Support Groups which guide, communicate and organize for service spouses. For me specifically, the Family Readiness Support Manager, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs and the County Veteran Service Office are my go-to for resources and for finding services. The support of peers and a larger community is critical to transitioning veterans and there’s no doubt that this support exists in Wisconsin.
There are County Veteran Service Officers in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties who tirelessly advocate for veterans and their families, connecting them with services, programs and resources. Regardless of which part of the state you’re in—rural or urban—there are hundreds of chapters of Veterans Service Organizations with thousands of members, meaning a support system of people who share many things in common is firmly in place. Veterans in Wisconsin benefit from the camaraderie of a strong and active veterans community.
Most of my support comes from keeping in touch with my “battle buddies.” We set up reunions and travel to see each other whenever we’re able to. My “battles” are the best medicine.
In Wisconsin: What advice, if any, would you offer to those service members making that big decision about where to live and raise a family?
JC: It’s important that you understand that there are wants and then there are needs. Once your needs are identified, you need to find the balance with your wants.
Wisconsin offered us both. Jobs, housing, schools, health care, safe and clean communities and outdoor activities are just the beginning.
To learn more about the many attributes that help make Wisconsin a great place for veterans and their families, as well as the countless resources and programs available to them, visit InWisconsin.com/Veterans.