Military, the vets crucial to the future of Dayton. Is Dayton crucial for them?


“I’m telling you this: Ohio was my best state out of the eight states I have,” Rickel said.

Some local experts say, however, that more should be done to market the area, especially to veterans who have never worked or lived here before.

The result is not complicated. If a state takes in military families and veterans, the Department of Defense notices. And companies in the defense sector too.

“For Ohio to remain competitive with other states for new military jobs, we must enact legislation that supports military spouses and families,” said Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition , earlier this year.

Recent analysis shows statewide federal and military facilities like Wright-Patterson and Springfield Air National Guard Base have a gross impact of nearly $ 70 billion statewide, supporting more than 380,000 jobs.

Locally, federal facilities have a gross economic impact of $ 19.4 billion on the region, supporting 103,000 jobs, according to analysis released in October.

Indeed, the economic impact of federal and military facilities in western Ohio – which includes Dayton and Springfield – amounts to 17.1% of the region’s economy, according to an analysis commissioned by Dayton. Development Coalition.

“We are not resting on our laurels,” said retired Maj. Gen. Deborah Ashenhurst, director of the Ohio Department of Veteran Services and former chief of the Ohio National Guard.

Like many military veterans, when Dave Weeks and his wife decided where to retire in the mid-1990s, the presence of family and employment were the primary concerns.

But another factor prompted the Air Force veteran, now 64, to retire in the Dayton area: the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on the west side of Dayton.

The prospect of regular veteran-focused medical care couldn’t be ignored, when it comes to the Desert Storm veteran.

“Dayton is one of the best cities for veterans to get care,” said Weeks, a native of South Bend, Indiana, who is now Chapter 9 commander of US Veterans with Disabilities Jesse R. Stephanics.

Ohio “is doing well”

Rickel also serves as a liaison with Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.

In an interview with the Dayton Daily News, he warned that the Defense Department only assesses communities in certain ways. The department does not assess regional crime and tax rates, for example, or environmental, health, or similar issues.

“There are a lot of areas that we don’t monitor,” he said.

DOD’s priority problem list measures what Rickel called “transition problems.”

The 10-question list examines questions such as: How easy or difficult is it for a military spouse to transfer a professional license to another state to pursue a career? Is it difficult to enroll a child in the school of the family’s choice? How welcoming is a state or place for a family new to active service?

Rickel said, “If you ask me specifically, how is Ohio doing on our main issues? They are doing very well.

Of Ohio lawmakers, he said, “They’ve made phenomenal strides in the past three or four years.”

On a list of “state-specific progress on key issues and sub-issues,” Ohio has six issues classified by the DOD as “green,” representing the adoption of a family-friendly state policy. soldiers in transition.

An issue – regarding Ohio’s signing on to professional licensing agreements with other states – is in dark blue, representing an issue that advanced to the General Assembly.

Another issue – forcing state employees to ask questions about a citizen’s veteran status in routine interactions – is noted in light blue, showing the Ohio Senate has passed a bill. of law which is now pending in the House.

And one problem that seems to have made little progress: the flexibility of open enrollment at the school. On the state’s “Military State Sources Policy” report card, this area is colored gray, which represents “no progress”.

Open enrollment is a form of public school choice that allows students to attend a different school than the one to which they are assigned, depending on where they live.

“It basically gives them a little bit of flexibility in their listing status,” Rickel said.

The Ohio school report card shows no legislation passed on the matter.

Another problem, “concurrent jurisdiction”, also shows that no law has been adopted. An example of “best practice” in this area would be Florida, where the DOD states that the state retains concurrent jurisdiction over civil and criminal processes that fall under state authority, until the activities enter. not in conflict with security procedures on military bases. .

Rickel said it was too early to discuss the Ohio move there, saying his department was only beginning to assess the issue.

Why veterans say they chose to stay here

While there are situations where active-duty military personnel may express preferences regarding their next posting – depending on a service member’s profession and the needs of the service – they go where they are ordered.

But when a veteran decides to retire in a particular location, it can be seen as a genuine choice.

“They chose to live here, they chose to retire here, there is something that brought them here,” Ashenhurst said. “And then they want to make a difference in their community and their state because of it.”

Cassie barlow is a retired Air Force colonel and former commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, the unit that acts as the unit owner and custodian of the huge Wright-Patterson.

She retired to Dayton in 2014 when she left the Air Force, and she agrees that the decision speaks for itself. Ohio and Dayton arguably have better job opportunities and a better cost of living, Barlow said.

“You don’t have to wait in traffic,” she said. “You can buy a house for a very reasonable price. “

Carl Smith, a 73-year-old Vietnam War veteran, agrees.

“It’s very economical to live here,” said Smith, a resident of Huber Heights. “You have the change of seasons. “

“At the end of the day, a mountain or a beach doesn’t matter if you have to pay $ 500,000 for a house, if your taxes are going to be very high, and you have to drive an hour to work every day,” Barlow said.

“In my mind, these things go quickly, if you have all these other barriers in place,” she said.

“You immediately feel welcome”

Barlow lost count of how many times a stranger ate her lunch or breakfast while she was serving at Wright-Patterson.

“There are communities across the country where you immediately feel welcome,” she said. For her, Dayton was one of them.

Raul Sierra is founder and owner of Beavercreek’s SierTeKLtd, which has a joint venture with fellow defense contractor Peerless Technologies (SierTeK-Peerless Joint Venture), in Fairborn.

Sierra, a US Army veteran, worked at Wright-Patterson as an entrepreneur before starting his business. He wanted to be close to the grassroots, which turned out to be a driver of opportunity for his business.

And the manpower he needed was at hand, too.

“It was mostly about work, and the large veteran population that we have here is helping us with hiring,” Sierra said.

About 40% of its employees are veterans, the Fairborn resident said. Their knowledge and security clearances are useful to SierTek.

And Sierra has relied on the local VA in the past. “I found it very useful,” he said.

More can be done for military families and veterans, said Barlow and others. Ohio should try to attract not only those who serve or have served here, but also others who are unfamiliar with the area.

“You can never do enough for active duty and veterans,” said Dayton attorney and former state representative Jim Butler, a U.S. Navy veteran. “We can never rest on what we have already accomplished. “

Ashenhurst said it is unusual for a state to have veteran services offices in every county, like Ohio does. She said the presence of these offices, which offer a range of services – helping veterans maximize VA claims or find cases – should not be underestimated.

“This is where the rubber hits the road,” she said.

Key issues for the US Department of Defense

Improved Portability of Military Spouse Licensure: Senate Bill 7 mandated state licensing agencies to issue licenses or certificates to military personnel and spouses who already hold a valid license to practice a trade or profession in another state. Ohio Status: Policy Adopted

Access to the military spouse’s work permit: Ease of license transfer. Ohio Status: Policy Adopted.

License agreements: States may sign other state agreements to allow spouses to take advantage of state-to-state reciprocity in the recognition of professional licenses. Ohio Status: Legislative issue advanced.

Purple Star School Program: Recognizes schools that show a “major commitment” to students and families related to the military. Ohio Status: Policy Adopted.

Register in advance: Local education agencies would be permitted to allow children of military families to participate in both virtual school enrollment and advanced enrollment as they prepare to relocate to a new military installation with a permanent duty station order in hand. The previous law required military families to wait until they were physically located within the district boundaries before they could register for classes and begin classes. Ohio Status: Policy Adopted.

Continuity of tuition fees in the state: Provides in-state tuition for all military family members, regardless of the sponsor’s location. Ohio Status: Policy Adopted.

Child abuse investigation and reporting: Requires public children’s service agencies to report child abuse or neglect in military families to the appropriate military authorities. Ohio Status: Policy Adopted.

Ask the campaign question: Requires state employees to learn about a citizen’s veteran status as a first step in sharing information about veteran services. Ohio Statute: Senate Bill 213 was passed by the Senate in August 2021 and is pending at Ohio House.

Open registration flexibility. Ohio State: No progress indicated.

Sources:, Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Department of Veterans Services.


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