WORTHINGTON — As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Jim Dunn forged a strong connection with his Veterans Service Officer in Roseau County in far northwest Minnesota in the years following his honorable discharge.

Now, he hopes to do the same with Nobles County veterans as the county’s new veterans service officer.

Dunn began his duties March 15, and while he’s new to the career, he has plenty of people to call on in his quest to advocate for veterans. In addition to his mentor in Roseau County, Dunn said Minnesota’s VSO’s are a “tight-knit community," and state personnel have been very helpful thus far.

Already meeting with local veterans and providing assistance as needed, Dunn will spend up to a year working through four stages of training to be officially accredited as a veterans service officer.

During that time, he hopes to get to know the veterans of Nobles County and get involved with local veterans groups. Already, he’s signed on with the Veterans Hockey League — the closest of which is in Nebraska — and is a goaltender for the Nebraska Warriors.

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A native of Tampa, Florida, Dunn is the son of two Air Force veterans, both of whom spent 20 years in service to their country in the medical field. With military jobs, they moved around a bit.

Dunn spent his youth in Minot, North Dakota and Warroad and Roseau, Minnesota. He graduated from Warroad High School with plans to follow in the footsteps of his parents and enlist in the U.S. Air Force. He did so in Fargo, North Dakota — the nearest military entrance processing station.

He was stationed at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, working as a security forces specialist. He performed ground security and progressed to police dispatcher, eventually earning the rank of staff sergeant and working as operations supervisor.

In June 2014, Dunn was appointed to a flyaway security team at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. For the next five months, he provided security for C-130 aircraft.

“When we hit the ground and are on the flight line, we have to conduct 360-degree security,” he said, noting that they stood watch as military cargo or wounded soldiers were loaded, then got back on the plane and traveled with it to its final destination.

“We traveled throughout Afghanistan,” he added.

Dunn returned to Colorado Springs following his tour of duty and was honorably discharged from the Air Force in February 2019. He remained in the city and began work at a hospital there, conducting new employee orientation in a health care administrative role. Meanwhile, he worked toward his bachelor’s degree in mass communications and media from Arizona State University. By the time he graduated magna cum laude, he had relocated to Roseau County to work for Life Care Medical Center’s Emergency Medical Services.

“Being a veteran, I wanted to get more involved in veterans affairs,” Dunn said. “When I met with my VSO, that’s when I decided to do something like this.

“Working very closely with the county VSO in Roseau, it really opened a whole new window for me,” he added. “It really made me want to reach out to veterans and help them out the way I was helped out.”

Dunn said he’s excited to be living and working in southwest Minnesota.

“I think it’s kind of cool to be near Iowa and South Dakota,” he said. “I’ve always been avid in hiking and the outdoors. This is a pretty perfect area to have access to those things.”