For some veterans, the thought of leaving the service can be incredibly difficult. Many wonder if they’ll make it’ on the outside, and be able to support themselves and their loved ones. On top of that, many military members are second or third generation, which means they’ve spent their entire lives in a sort of nomadic state, moving from one base to another every few years. I spent 10 years in the Army and came from a military family; by the time I finally chose to ditch the combat boots, I’d moved 28 times.

How do you go from that to choosing a single place to put down roots? It’s a critical and personal decision. Some are driven by a good job market, others by the climate, nearby activities, or veteran support services.

Well what if you could have all of the above? If you’re getting ready to kiss your dog tags goodbye and are still searching for the perfect place to settle, consider Nashville. The southern city boasts a reputation as one of the most vet-friendly cities around, and with good reason.

For those looking to start their own small business, whether it’s artisanal coffee, irreverent t-shirts, or offensive morale patches (all super unique ideas, by the way!) Nashville has a robust SCORE program, supporting more than 30 counties with veteran mentoring, loan request assistance, and management workshops.

Disabled or need a little bit of extra care from your time in uniform? Not a problem: A half-dozen VA-associated medical facilities are located right in the metro area to support the needs of the vet community. For paperwork processing, (and AAFES discounts) Fort Campbell is also less than an hour’s drive away.

Cost of living doesn’t hurt Nashville’s case for the best place to settle post-military either: the relative purchasing power of a hundred bucks will net you $110.62. Compare that to $87.11 and $86.36 in California and New York, respectively. Hate taxes? Tennessee has no state income tax and is also rated #11 on the SBPI for most business-friendly states to operate in. Throw in some amazing food, family-friendly entertainment, and renowned nightlife, and you’ve got the recipe for a great place to start your journey into civilian hood.

Of course, no one who hears the name Nashville can avoid the association with country music. Home to the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, and Country Music Hall of Fame, the city lives and breathes country music. Just travel down to Broadway almost any night of the week and hear aspiring stars cut their teeth in the same iconic honky tonks where the heavyweights got their big breaks. But if country music isn’t your thing, don’t worry! Nashville also has some of the best rock, hip-hop, and Americana music venues anywhere. No matter what you’re in the mood for, you can find it in Nashville, 365 days a year.

If the great outdoors is more your wheelhouse, Nashville has dozens of parks, greenways, and a world-class zoo. Outside the city there are even more opportunities for adventure, like watersports on the Cumberland River or boating on Percy Priest Lake and hunting in the Cheatham WMA.

All of these assets make Nashville a worthy place to lay down roots.

When I made my decision to join the civilian workforce at 32 years old, it was one of the most uncertain periods in my life. It put a ton of stress on my family, my friends, and my job performance. Thankfully I had the help of a veteran support group to assist me through the process. Whether you’re an E-3 leaving after your first enlistment, or a seasoned lifer who finally puts in their retirement packet, every vet needs a guide to navigate the transition, and Nashville has one of the best in the country.

Operation Stand Down Tennessee (OSDTN), a non-profit veteran support organization, is headquartered in downtown Nashville with a satellite office in Clarksville to support nearby Fort Campbell. Together, those offices provide career transition services, transitional housing assistance, urgent needs, and even help vets navigate the enormous labyrinth of the VA and its associated programs. OSDTN has recently teamed up with organizations like CreatiVets and Centerstone Military Services to further expand the services available to the Veteran community at the Nashville campus.

If you haven’t landed a civilian job yet or are still trying to figure out what you want to do, OSDTN has recently started a fellowship program for eligible service members or their spouses. Those accepted into the fellowship will be placed into a 5 month paid program with a local employer like: The Nashville Predators Foundation, Smile Direct Club, Stansell Electric, or OSDTN itself.

While you’re working and building a smoking-hot resume you’ll be paid an $800/month stipend and make $10/hr (for a 32 hr week) through your host employer. Fellowship candidates will also attend a 3 hour business education module every Friday provided by the faculty from the Jack C. Massey College of Business through Belmont University.

So, if you’re thinking of transitioning from the service or have already begun the process, check out Nashville for unmatched veteran support and a host of city attractions. No matter what you need, Operation Stand Down can help.

For more information on the Operation Stand Down fellowship program, send an email to the program manager at vfp@osdtn.org.

Eligible service members and vets will need to have the following documentation to begin the applicable process:

  • DD-214
  • 2 professional references
  • A current resume
  • Short 250-word biography
  • Military spouses will need a copy of their significant other’s DD-214 and marriage certificate

This article is sponsored by Operation Stand Down Tennessee.