Tegan Griffith grew up in a small town in North Central Wisconsin. After spending most of her time in the military based in California, she figured she’d stay after she transitioned to civilian life. But in 2009, jobs were hard to come by in California. She knew she had to regroup and find a new home base—and she knew it was Wisconsin.
“I didn’t have a degree at that time, but I knew that I would not have a hard time trying to find a job. And so that sense of security, knowing that I would be able to land on my feet and knowing that my support network was still there after having been gone for four years, I knew that was a safe call to make,” Griffith says.
Griffith’s life in Wisconsin has been going great. You might have seen her in the 2018 documentary American Creed, talking about her service and what it means to her to be an American. Or maybe you ran across her last year in news coverage about her roadside rescue of a puppy named Larry, which helped raise over $10,000 for the Forest County Humane Society (Larry, who now lives with Griffith, spent the interview with In Wisconsin eating popcorn).
After getting a degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Griffith worked in Madison for a few years doing outreach for the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs. In fact, she’s still the voice you hear when you call the WDVA’s 1-800-WIS-VETS phone line.
Today she works in communications for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, and as she’s moved around the state, she’s always made sure to check in with her County Veterans Service Officer (CVSO). Although other states have veterans service officers, Wisconsin is one of the only states with one in each county. The state has 72 CVSOs, as well as 11 Tribal Veterans Service Officers, all with the job of advocating for veterans and their families.
“The Marathon County Veterans Service Officer, Mary, was essentially the first lady Marine that I met after I left active duty. When I wanted to enroll in college, UW-Marathon County told me I needed to go see Mary about benefits. Okay, whatever a CVS officer is…,” Griffith remembers.
“When I walked in there, she ran me through the full gamut of questions: Do you have a copy of your DD Form 2? Do you have food? Do you need anything? Have you filed a claim with the VA? Do you know where your claim is at? Just a laundry list of things. And she kept tabs on us. Anytime there was an event, or a local group was giving out hams for the holidays, she’d let you know.” It’s support like this that leads Griffith to recommend Wisconsin to other service members and veterans.
“Wisconsin has more resources than you can even think about. All you have to do is ask, and there will be community groups, people on campuses, people in your communities that will help. You’ve got the North Woods, where you can get away, the bigger cities like Green Bay, Madison or Eau Claire. You and your family are going to have a good life living here, and a good time, too. You’re just going to feel at home.”