“Nothing compares to the State of North Dakota. So, it was this yearning to come home from me and my wife,” Retired Army Sgt. Major Tony Hillig said.
No doubt, Tony and Sandi Hillig love living in the Peace Garden State where they became a couple.
When we spoke in October of 2019, Tony Hillig was still looking for work. He had started looking six months before leaving Fort Carson, Colorado, but he continued having trouble equating his military experience to a civilian job and it was getting to him. It’s something his wife Sandi explained well.
“The Army is all or nothing. He’s going crazy and then all of a sudden, they have two weeks off. It’s like there has to be a balance and hopefully, he can find that,” Sandi Hillig said.
“Continuing stumble blocks. Some of that’s self-inflicted, of course. I think that points to… some folks think veterans come with scars; often we do. But I think that those things from our service are ‘over-comable’ if given the chance,” Tony Hillig said.
The battle in finding work finally came to an end. Now the state’s motorized recreation coordinator, some of Hillig’s work includes demonstrating off-road vehicle and snowmobile safety.
Hillig’s boss, Jolene Rieck, North Dakota Department of Parks & Recreation Chief of Planning & Programs said she couldn’t believe no one had hired the retired Army veteran before the state did.
“We saw his credentials coming in; his references were like a four-star general. It was almost intimidating to have him in the room with us. We were just so extremely honored when we heard he wanted to come work for us and do this motorized recreation program,” Rieck said.
Though he gets to satisfy his need for speed, there are other parts of the job Hillig finds rewarding, like being able to see parts of the state he never has. Speaking of rewarding, even though it took longer than he would have liked to find this job, he said he’s glad he found it when he did. “To have employment before the pandemic, I’m not going to say it saved my life, but it probably saved my mental wellness. So, again, I’m just indebted to the parks and rec and Jolene,” Hillig said.
“I hope we do everything we can do to keep him with our agency and keep serving the people of North Dakota,” Rieck said. “I see myself staying here as long as they’ll have me,” Hillig said.
Rieck said North Dakota is a very veteran-friendly state and encouraged other businesses to consider hiring qualified veterans.
If you’re a veteran looking for a job and don’t know where to start your search, here are some options.