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Why Veterans Love North Dakota

Ample employment, secondary education, accessible VA health care and plentiful outdoor recreation make North Dakota the place to be.

By Heather Cherry on January 4, 2023

Staff Sgt. Zak Bergstrom, of the 119th Security Forces Squadron, North Dakota Air National Guard, walks to his car with his wife as she greets him at Hector International Airport, Fargo, N.D., upon his return home from a six-month deployment to southwest Asia Jan. 18, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp) Credit North Dakota National Guard
SMSgt David H Lipp

Whether you’re active military or a transitioning veteran, you’ll find endless opportunities and assistance in North Dakota. And you’ll be in good company — 9% of North Dakota’s homes are occupied by veterans. 

With its favorable tax policies, low cost of living, robust economy and access to medical and other services at military bases throughout the state — and of course, world-class fishing, hunting, and other outdoor recreation — North Dakota may be just the place you’re looking for. Here’s why.

The UTTC International Powwow is one of the largest powwows in the nation. Credit North Dakota Tourism
North Dakota Tourism

Low Unemployment 

Dustin Hillebrand, a workforce center manager at Job Service North Dakota, says North Dakota is one of the best places for veterans to find employment. 

“Across the state, there is a network of veterans and agencies willing to help,” Hillebrand says. “Our veteran unemployment rate runs about 1% for the state of North Dakota.” 

Low unemployment can be attributed to the favorable climate for new businesses, and Hillebrand says, “veterans make up some of the highest percentages of entrepreneurs. We have the Veterans Business Outreach Center of the Dakotas, which specializes in helping veterans and military spouses looking to start, purchase or grow a business.” 

But it’s also likely because large companies and corporations are interested in hiring veterans. This is because veterans are not only highly trained individuals but have proven qualities that speak to their value in society — known for their loyalty, honor and selflessness. 

“Many industries in North Dakota understand the work ethic of veterans and are very happy to hire them — even with absolutely no background in their industry. It’s because they know veterans understand the importance of training, and those companies are willing to take a chance on them,” Hillebrand says. “Top players in the nation and the world love hiring veterans because of their background.”

Additionally, the state of North Dakota promotes a favorable work environment for licensed professionals. 

“If a veteran or military spouse comes into the state and needs a license to do their occupation, the state works with those folks to help them transfer their license to North Dakota and get to work faster,” Hillebrand says.

Credit US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kimura Helwig spends time with a resident of Trinity Homes Retirement Community Nov. 16, 2013, in downtown Minot, N.D. Helwig is a member of Friends of Veterans volunteer group, an organization that hosts various events for veterans throughout the year. Helwig is assigned to the 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron.
US Air Force

Education, Resources and Health Care

Resources and opportunities for education are plentiful in North Dakota. With 20 colleges and universities to choose from, veterans looking to further their education won’t have to go far. 

North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota (UND) offer various training opportunities for veterans. 

“These are great places for veterans to start their transition into school and keep their professional development going,” Hillebrand says.

Outside of the higher education system, programs like Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) in Fargo help transitioning service members and veterans with service-connected disabilities. VR&E offers vocational counseling, employment services, job training, apprenticeships, post-secondary training and supportive rehabilitation services.

“We have a phenomenal veteran readiness and employment here in North Dakota,” Hillebrand says. 

Health care also is readily available for veterans in North Dakota. The state has more than a dozen Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics in locations including BismarckGrand ForksMinot and Williston

“We truly have one of the best VA health care systems in the country here in North Dakota,” Hillebrand says. 

Credit Greater Grand Forks Convention & Visitors Bureau
Greater Grand Forks Convention & Visitors Bureau

Outdoor Activities and National Parks

There’s a misnomer that North Dakota is a frigid and snowy state. While it gets its fair share of snow, North Dakota is the place to be in all four seasons. In fact, the summers are plenty warm for watersports on area lakes and rivers, while spring and fall are mild. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 4°F to 83°F and is rarely below -18°F or above 93°F.

These conditions offer an abundance of outdoor activities, including fishing, hunting, camping, ATV riding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, downhill and cross-country skiing, downhill mountain biking and hiking. 

“Lake Sakakawea and Devils Lake are popular places to fish, but there are many small lakes across the state that offer great fishing,” says Hillebrand. “There’s a lot of posted land that prohibits hunting. But you can submit a request to the owner to hunt on their land. Many of us are sportspeople and understand the importance of sharing that lifestyle. And if you follow the guidelines as requested, more than likely, they’ll let you hunt.”

Then there is Theodore Roosevelt National Park (open year-round) and the Badlands, which are among the most underrated and unique national parks systems in the U.S. 

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Staff Sgt. Brett Miller/ Released) Credit North Dakota National Guard
North Dakota National Guard

From tiny shrews to 2,000-pound bison, the Badlands are home to many species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and butterflies. Equipped with picturesque hiking trails, countless awe-inspiring scenic overlooks, and a surprising abundance of wildlife, the Badlands are worth living in North Dakota in and of itself. 

And if participating in community events seems appealing, there are many to choose from. 

“Aside from our national parks and outdoor recreation, many events happen in our communities,” Hillenbrand says. “Events go on in the summertime, but also in winter. You can catch cool one-off events, like the Turkey Barbecue and Summer Festival in Aneta, where they cook turkeys over charcoal. We have rib competitions and cool New Year’s Eve events—even though it’s winter in North Dakota, people are out having a great time and being with each other. Regardless of the season, communities across the state come together to celebrate and maintain the connection.”

This article was sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

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