By Lynne Barbour, Regional Manager, Strategic Partnerships
In a recent blog post, I shared that Wallethub listed four North Carolina cities as among the Best Cities for Veterans to Live. North Carolina is often mentioned as a “military-friendly” state, but what does that really mean? And what “military-friendly” resources could help veterans even more?
NCServes Network Director/Programs Manager Paul Berry says, “This term is thrown around all the time like a cheap catchphrase, in my opinion. I like the term ‘military-connected’ or ‘veteran-connected’ better. ‘Military-friendly’ is a free sandwich on Veterans Day. Veteran-connected is a community that understands and embraces veterans and their families.”
Chad Johnson, cybersecurity consultant and co-founder of the Triangle Veteran Network, took a more business-centric view, stating, “It means that a company or an organization has taken steps to hire veterans on a regular basis, or has programs that are in place to help and/or facilitate veterans.”
Diana Graham, Owner & CEO of Crowned for Success Global Consulting, took a strategic perspective and responded, “Military-friendly goes beyond a label or signage by strategically setting aside a space to incorporate and support the military community.”
Marylin Terrill, Dean of Veterans Programs and Innovation at Wake Technical Community College, knows first-hand that “one underutilized military-friendly resource is our community colleges.” She adds, “Wake Tech offers VA Educational Benefits, priority registration for many veterans, veterans’ programs such as a Student Veterans of America Club, Veterans Graduation Dinners, Veterans Job Expos, and Veterans Appreciation Week, to name a few.”
Berry works directly with veterans and their families who are struggling with their transition from active duty to civilian life. The NCServes Networks is comprised of four coordinated care networks across the state and “brings together hundreds of veterans serving organizations under one technology platform.” These networks serve active duty, guard, reserves, veterans, retirees, spouses, widows and caregivers. Services provided range from benefits navigation to education, employment, housing, and shelter. All the services are free, and the client benefits greatly by having a Community Coordinator assist them through navigation of programs and resources.
Another underutilized resource is NC4ME. Johnson says, “Most veterans don’t know that NC4ME is a military resource.” North Carolina for Military Employment (NC4ME) is a comprehensive public-private partnership designed to make North Carolina the number one state for military employment.
Graham references the Veterans Resource Guide, produced and published by the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, to assist and educate veterans in learning about state and federal veteran benefits. It is available in print form and via a PDF download.
In my opinion, Western Governors University is an underutilized resource for active duty military, veterans, and spouses. WGU was recently listed as number one on the 2020–2021 Military Friendly® Schools list in the online/vocational category, and we are proud to partner with like-minded advocates across the state. WGU North Carolina and the USO of North Carolina recently announced the renewal of eight Military Service Scholarships available to local currently serving military members, veterans, and their family members.
As a closing question, I asked my veteran contacts, “When working with veterans, what is one thing you tell them that North Carolina has, or does, that other states don’t?”
Berry said it best: “North Carolina understands veterans and their families. From State Agencies to local veteran-serving nonprofits, veterans have access to a coordinated community of resources. North Carolina has the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, which partners with hundreds of nonprofits to ensure veterans’ issues are addressed. Also, in just a few short hours, families can be at the beach or hiking in the mountains. Quality of life and cost of living are huge factors when it comes to where veterans will transition to their next career.”
By continuing to support veterans and their families, and promoting all resources available to them, we can continue to keep North Carolina as a top state for our nation’s veterans.