Wisconsin isn’t just a great place for soon-to-be veterans, but their entire family, and U.S. Air Force veteran Jen Cornelius offers a unique perspective on the benefits of moving to Wisconsin after military service. Having been tasked with one of the most important decisions of her life — where would her family move to and start the next chapter of their lives? — the answer was simple: Wisconsin.
After having lived in the Badger State 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 benefits and opportunities available to them in Wisconsin are endless. Learn more about why Wisconsin was the right place for the Cornelius’ to live in the Q&A below:
In Wisconsin: Why did your family decide to move to Wisconsin following 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 a majority of my deciding factors as a veteran and also as a military spouse.
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 that 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, great food, and the investment in wellness and activities to reward for a job well done.
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.
Wisconsin’s tax-free military retirement gave us a great bang for our buck, too, 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.
In Wisconsin: What things are available to veterans/military families in Wisconsin that aren’t typically available in other states?
JC: I’ve been able to learn about many benefits Wisconsin offers to 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 is the best gift I’ve ever been given for my family and myself.
In Wisconsin: As a service member, what type of things do you consider when 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, healthcare, 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 a military spouse, were there things or support systems in place in Wisconsin that you could lean on if/when needed?
JC: I utilized so many people to answer 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 finding services.
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 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, healthcare, safe and clean communities and outdoor activities are just the beginning.