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Getting out of the military soon and not sure where you want to call home next?
There are a lot of factors to consider. Everything from veteran employment trends to cost of living, school quality and even your commute to work could have you living the dream – or make your new home a total bust.
For our latest Best for Vets: Places to Live rankings, we evaluated 599 places, as designated by the Census Bureau, for veteran and military culture and services, economic indicators and livability factors. Read on to see what we found – and how it might help you pick your next hometown.
1. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Hailed by nearby Fort Carson as “the best hometown in the Army,” Colorado Springs is home to more than 10,000 service members and 53,000 veterans, according to Census Bureau data. The city was recently ranked at the top of another recent national survey of the best places to live.
“Not only is the city ranked the most desirable place to live in America, it is especially hospitable to our veterans with an overwhelming number of veteran service organizations, incredible national pride and a true appreciation for those who serve,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said in an email.
2. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Veterans make up nearly 17 percent of the adult population in this coastal city, the largest proportion of any large city in this year’s rankings. In addition to stunning beachfront views, Virginia Beach also offers a higher income rate for veterans, compared to nonveterans, and easy access to eight military installations and 11 Veterans Affairs Department health and benefits facilities.
“Every day, veterans — and their spouses and families — contribute to the quality of life in Virginia Beach,” said Virginia Beach Mayor Louis R. Jones. “We honor them and we are very grateful for their tremendous sacrifices and heroism.”
3. San Antonio
San Antonio’s rich military history didn’t end with the Alamo. Home to Joint Base San Antonio, Texas’ second-largest city has 11 veteran commissioners who advise city leaders on legislative issues affecting the city’s active-duty and veteran population. Last year, the city established a trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, designating it as “Military City USA.”
Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala said the city’s low cost of living, worldclass medical facilities, large active-duty presence and growing number of veteran support organizations make San Antonio an attractive destination for veterans. Additionally, “support from the city’s government and citizenry is tangible, and more than just slogans,” he said.
1. Alexandria, Virginia
In this Washington, D.C., suburb of nearly 156,000 residents, the unemployment rate for both veterans and civilians is lower than the national average. And although traffic around the beltway makes its residents’ work commutes longer than most other medium cities on our list, the city is just a short jaunt from 13 military installations, as well as colleges, employers and franchises also ranked Best for Vets by Military Times.
2. Arlington, Virginia
People who visit the nation’s capital may not realize that many famous attractions, such as the Pentagon and the Iwo Jima Memorial, are actually in Arlington, Virginia.
While its proximity to D.C., means a higher cost of living for the city’s residents, Arlington’s veterans have the highest average income compared with all other medium-sized cities on our list. The city also received our highest rating for area health, based on averages of state- and county-level data from the United Health Foundation and County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, respectively.
3. Olathe, Kansas
Legend has it this Midwestern city got its name after its founder asked his Native American interpreter how to say “beautiful."
A century and a half later, Olathe is home to nearly 135,500 residents, 7,000 of whom are veterans. Between 2015 and 2016, the years for which the most recent census data is available, the city’s veteran growth outpaced its overall growth — 17 percent compared to 5 percent. Olathe’s veterans have 16 nearby VA health centers.
1. Portsmouth, Virginia
Portsmouth has a higher crime rate and a lower school rating than other small cities on our list, but many signs point to this being a good destination for veterans. Former service members make nearly double the salary of nonveterans, and the city of just over 95,000 is situated near 11 Veterans Affairs facilities and 10 military installations, including the world’s largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk.
2. Glen Burnie, Maryland
Veterans who live in this Baltimore suburb of approximately 69,500 are within 25 miles of 26 VA health facilities. The city’s unemployment rate of 7 percent is higher than the national average, though veterans bring home nearly $20,000 more a year than nonveterans do.
“Glen Burnie is a terrific place to build a life, and it is no surprise it has achieved this recognition,” said Steve Schuh, executive of Anne Arundel County, where Glen Burnie is located.
3. New Braunfels, Texas
“Our community embraces our veterans and welcomes them with honor, respect and recognition,” New Braunfels Mayor Barron Casteel said in an email.
He said the city has many attractive qualities, including a thriving economy, housing availability, beautiful natural resources and a small-town charm. New Braunfels also had one of the highest school ratings on our small cities list.
Military Times contributor and former reporter Natalie Gross hosts the Spouse Angle podcast. She grew up in a military family and has a master's degree in journalism from Georgetown University.