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Revealed: 7 Great Cities for Veterans to Live in

How those who’ve served can choose the best place to call home

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Many veterans, active duty and military support personnel live in and around Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Not all U.S. cities are created equal — or even close to it — when it comes to optimal living for veterans. As service members transition into civilian life, and others consider moving to more veteran-friendly cities, there are many factors to consider. 

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High-quality health care, social networks tailored to veterans and proximity to a military installation all lead to a “more robust veteran community and resources,” according to Dr. Laura Purdy, an Army veteran and former battlefield surgeon who is now a psychologist and digital health physician.

There’s plenty of room for debate, but here are the top 7, based on canvassing of our AARP community representatives and advocates.

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Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina

Veterans looking for a strong employment market can look no further than this warm Southern town. WalletHub ranked it number 1 for employment, based on share of military-skill-related jobs, veteran unemployment rate, job growth and veteran-owned businesses per veteran population. Durham is also home to VA initiatives such as a research program aimed at optimizing wellness and independence. 

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The George Washington Monument is seen from the Capitol Building grounds in Raleigh, North Carolina.
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Veterans can earn a steady paycheck in this area and engage in activities at North Carolina military bases. Troy Broussard, senior advisor to AARP’s Veterans and Military Families initiative, added that being near a major airport is a big plus.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Home to the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, this city is a must-consider for veterans hoping to be in the heart of a supportive military community. It’s also at the intersection of Fort Indiantown Gap, Naval Support Activity Mechanicsburg and the Army War College in Carlisle. 

There is a heavy presence of veterans, active duty and military support personnel in the Harrisburg area and its immediate surroundings. It’s just close enough to the Washington, D.C., metro area to travel there if needed yet has a much lower cost of living. Harrisburg is also accessible to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York and Baltimore.

spinner image an aerial view of clarksville, tennessee shows an old railroad trestle that was turned into a pedestrian bridge.
An old railroad trestle has been made into a pedestrian walkway in Clarksville, Tennessee.
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Clarksville, Tennessee

Check out this military-supportive suburb outside of Nashville. Near Fort Campbell, residents have that patriotic vibe, even from the city and county mayors. Local businesses partner with Fort Campbell, home of 101st Airborne Division, 5th Special Forces Group and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, and organizations such as the F&M Bank have a department dedicated to taking care of veterans.

In addition, the Montgomery County Veterans Coalition supports active military, veteran-owned businesses and veterans, providing and connecting them to many programs and services.

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A monument to the Wright brothers is pictured at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
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Dayton, Ohio

Home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the veteran community in Dayton, just over a half hour north of Cincinnati, is alive and well. Dayton was named one of the most affordable cities for Veterans by Veterans United Home Loans where Chris Birk, VP of Mortgage Insight, said “home prices and income” were key factors in creating their top cities list, helping veterans determine where they’d save the most when buying a home. 

AARP’s Broussard, an Army veteran of Desert Storm, recommends living near a military base to have full access to Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programming and facilities. “They provide resources like fitness, sports tickets, travel and some lifelong experiences,” he said.

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“That’s why it’s very important to be close to a base so that you can take advantage of those opportunities,” he added, noting that it decreases isolation and therefore PTSD and other mental health struggles. “It’s a great group of folks who are targeting veterans and making sure their mindset is clear.”

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Downtown Tampa, Florida.
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Tampa, Florida

Veterans will enjoy a warm and comfortable quality of life in Tampa, hurricane season aside. Tampa is home to MacDill Air Force Base, and has ranked number 1 in WalletHub lists, with great military discounts and retiree friendliness throughout the city. Tampa also ranks in the top 10 for midsize cities with the most job openings. 

Tampa is a retirement destination for a reason — while the rest of the country is shivering through the holiday season, Tampa remains a balmy 75 degrees. Broussard said veterans really should keep their weather preferences in mind when they look for a long-term location. WalletHub ranks Tampa number 5 in best cities for veterans, pointing to strong quality of life and health indicators.

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Downtown Anchorage and the low tide flats of Cook Inlet.
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Anchorage, Alaska

With one of the highest numbers of veterans per capita, you are sure to find like-minded former service members and feel part of a military community wherever you go. In all, 11 percent of Alaskans are veterans. 

Veterans have access to the Colonel Mary Louise Rasmuson Campus of the Alaska VA Healthcare System, an important consideration, according to Broussard. “If there’s a VA hospital nearby where you can get care at a low or discounted rate, that’s key,” he said, recommending staying within around 50 miles of access to care. 

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The River Walk in San Antonio, Texas.

San Antonio, Texas

Ranked in WalletHub’s top 30 cities for veterans, San Antonio, along with other Texas towns, has multiple pluses for those seeking a home. First, the culture, tourism scene and nightlife means you’ll never lack something to do. This also brings many jobs to the area, which is why the city received high rankings for economy in the survey. 

​In addition, the city boasts a wide variety of resources and support systems. Broussard also recommends choosing a city that supports veterans with housing initiatives. Texas is focused on this through a new initiative with the National Alliance to End Homelessness and UTHealth Houston, working to improve homelessness for all. In addition to San Antonio, two more Texas cities placed in WalletHub’s top 3: Austin and Laredo.

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published twice a month. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

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