Are you a servicemember preparing to transition to civilian life? If so, you probably have a lot of questions, including where you should live after transitioning from service. If you are like other surveyed servicemembers this year, you are prioritizing low cost of living, low crime rates, and access to outdoor activities. What’s more, you probably are looking for somewhere that that fits with your personality and can give you a sense of community. You want a place to call home and grow roots.
“Every year, roughly 250,000 servicemembers transition to civilian life. This can be a difficult and confusing change that includes everything from revisiting your finances to moving,” says Clay Stackhouse, retired Marine Corps Colonel and Regional Outreach Manager at Navy Federal Credit Union. “You might prefer city living with public transportation or rural living with more space. It’s up to you and your individual needs.”
To create the list, Navy Federal surveyed 1,000 veterans and civilians about quality of life metrics, such as cost of living, housing affordability, access to recreational activities, proximity to health resources and transportation, and more. Those results were used to rank over 400 U.S. cities based on how they met transitioning servicemembers’ needs.
The 2020 Best Cities After Service list
Charleston, South Carolina
A city known for its hospitality, Charleston boasts low housing costs, access to cultural and natural activities, and a robust history. The city also hosts a vibrant military community with Joint Base Charleston just a quick 25-minute drive from the center of downtown.
Fort Myers, Florida
Cape Coral-Fort Myers has risen as a key destination for veterans looking to live in year-round sunshine. Residents are provided endless opportunities to enjoy all that Florida has to offer, from boating and fishing to water sports and nature preserves.
The oldest city in Georgia, enriched in captivating history, stunning coastal landscapes and antique homes, gives residents the feeling of being on an endless vacation. Plus, downtown offers a bustling art scene and live music from buskers and bands playing in the park.
With the ambiance of a small town and the activity of a big city, Daphne-Fairhope-Foley has fantastic weather. The area is known as a “pedestrian’s paradise” due to its many parks lined with Spanish moss oak trees and a downtown filled with restaurants, boutiques and galleries.
Norwich, nicknamed “The Rose of New England,” is the largest city in the area and hosts a historic downtown. There’s also a significant military community in the area as nearby New London and Groton are home to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the Naval Submarine Base New London.
San Diego, California
Famous for its stunning beaches and idyllic weather, the San Diego-Carlsbad area is home to the nation’s largest concentration of military personnel, with veterans making up 13% of all San Diegans, plus 13.5% of city businesses are veteran-owned, and 22% of the jobs in the area are connected to the military.
The Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News region boasts a rich culinary scene, endless entertainment options and beautiful waterfront views. Also home to the world’s largest naval base, Naval Station Norfolk, the surrounding community is committed to supporting servicemembers and veterans alike.
Duluth is perfect for those who thrive in a natural environment. Located on scenic Lake Superior, residents have easy access to fishing and boating, breathtaking waterfront trails, and kayaking or canoeing. The city is full of culture, history and family-friendly activities.
Home to more than a quarter of the state’s veteran community, Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula is a hub for servicemembers and their families. Residents enjoy the region’s sunny beaches, low cost of living and laid-back Southern charm. In 2019, the state announced the construction of a $54-million state veterans home in the area.
Fort Worth, Texas
Fort Worth’s buzzing Sundance Square provides more than 35 square blocks of downtown dining, shopping and live entertainment. The more than 60,000 veterans that live in the area can catch a race at Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway, and Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers games in nearby Arlington.
“Every servicemember’s transition is unique and I believe this list provides locations that will satisfy the needs of a majority of individual veterans and their families,” Stackhouse says.
Navy Federal Credit Union is federally insured by NCUA.