Honoring and Celebrating America’s Veterans

Annual Walmart Celebration of Veterans, Bentonville, Ark.

By Mike Duke

November 11, 2013

Annual Walmart Celebration of Veterans, Bentonville, Ark.

Thank you all for being here on this very special day.   

Today, we honor and celebrate the service of our nation’s veterans. We owe these brave men and women our security, our liberty, and our very way of life. We are humbled by their courage, by their sacrifice, and by their willingness to give their lives … so that others can be free. 

All Americans benefit from their service. And all American companies do too. We couldn’t be here – serving customers and growing around the globe – without the sacrifices made by our veterans.

So let me start by saying a heartfelt “thank you” to all who served. And I want to ask all the veterans with us today to stand once again and be recognized.

At Walmart, we honor our troops, our veterans, their families, and their values – and we are determined to go far beyond words and promises.

In January, Bill Simon announced our commitment to hire any honorably discharged veteran within his or her first 12 months off active duty. We are working hard to make sure every veteran who is leaving the service – and wants a job with us – will have one.

In my years at Walmart, I’ve never seen a response to something be so quick and so positive. What’s struck me is that no matter where I am, people come up to me and want to talk about this commitment.

And this is not about us. Whether I’m in our stores, or with leaders in Washington, D.C., or even in other countries…it’s clear that people understand the sacrifice our veterans have made. They’re excited to see them being honored and taken care of…just as our veterans took care of us.

But I want to be very clear about this: supporting veterans is not something we just discovered this year. It’s a part of who we are. Our hiring commitment is just the most recent step on our journey.

I want to share a few photos that help tell the story.

The first is this:  

Sam and Helen Walton

Do you recognize Captain Sam Walton? Before he revolutionized retail, he served in the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps. And he brought his patriotism and his disciplined leadership to our company – traits we still have today. I show you this picture to remind us all where we started.

Just look at this next picture. This is a soybean field in Bellevue, Nebraska.  

Nebraska field veterans message

Right above it, you’ll see a runway for an air force base. For more than a decade, the associates there have created a message of thanks seen by all the troops as they land.  I show you this because it reflects the spirit that lives in our people. No one from Bentonville asked the associates there to do this. 

Now, this next picture is of another group of our associates – this time in Milton, Florida.  

Milton, Florida veterans

What do they have in common? They’re all veterans. We have 43 veterans working in that one store. And that store is special, but it is not unique. We have 55 veterans in our distribution center in Sealy, Texas…and an incredible 184 veterans at our DC in Hopkinsville, Kentucky!

We’re the largest private employer of veterans in America. We estimate we have 100,000 associates who are veterans. And another 150,000 associates are part of veteran and military families.

The final photo I want to share is a woman named Elise Hackstall. Elise sums up for me why veterans and Walmart are such a good fit.

Elise Hackstall Military Family Promise

Elise is a graduate of West Point who served on active duty until 2008. 

We recruited her when she left active duty…and she immediately felt right at home. As she said: “Walmart’s three basic beliefs are so much like the Seven Army Values. It felt like ‘this is exactly what I’m supposed to do.’” 

We value the qualities our veterans learned in the service: leadership, commitment, discipline, problem solving. And we offer in return the chance to move up. As Elise said:  “Walmart is looking for someone who is always eager for that next level of responsibility. The military does the exact same thing.”

She joined us as a Developmental Shift Manager in the smallest store in her market. She worked her way up to Shift Manager…and then to Store Manager of a Division 1 store. Today, she serves as both the Store Manager at the biggest supercenter in her market… and as the Company Commander of her Army reserve unit. 

Elise is just one example of how much the current generation of veterans has to offer.  We want their talent and their leadership.  And we’re moving aggressively to bring them to Walmart.

I’m proud to share that our hiring commitment is off to a great start.  In fact, since our commitment launched on Memorial Day, we’ve already hired more than 20,000 more veterans. Isn’t that fantastic? 

I’m also proud to share that – this morning – we announced donations to two important organizations supporting military families: Operation Homefront and Fisher House. With these gifts, we’ll help provide meals, toys, and lodging for military families with a service member in the hospital…and we’ll help hundreds of soldiers come home for the holidays.

This is part of our commitment to give $20 million over five years to causes important to veterans and military families. And these are just a few of the ways that your company is committed to honoring those who serve.

So, we have a great program for you this morning. We’re pleased to be joined by Gary Sinise and so many distinguished guests and partners in serving our communities. We’re also honored to have a Gold Star family here with us today. 
This morning, you’re going to hear two themes:

First, we’ll highlight our veteran associates, military families, and associates serving today. You’ll hear from some of them directly.

Second, we’ll hear about the importance of giving back. We will rededicate ourselves today to honoring their service with our own. 

Again, thank you for joining us today to thank and honor our nation’s veterans.