The year: 2005
The place: El Centro, California
The temperature: a balmy 115 degrees
If you have never heard of El Centro, think the desert scene in Star Wars, Return of the Jedi (it was filmed there) – and we’re talking surface-of-the-sun hot. We were on the tail end of our 5th cross-country Permanent Change of Station (PCS) from Virginia to California with our (then) 5 children and one dog. A proper Saharan caravan on its last leg.
It was then that our minivan tires began to give. I remember looking behind from the front-seat of our car with concern, and seeing five red-faced children staring nervously back. They were dripping with sweat in our vehicle-turned-sauna. Our panting dog sat atop a stack of suitcases, like some busted-up driveway lion, guarding nothing in particular. We had turned off the air conditioner, as it was serving no purpose other than raising our engine temperature. Outside, it was simply too hot, and the system could not keep up.
But suddenly, on the horizon – an oasis! Wait a minute…is it a mirage? No! A Walmart Super Center!
To us wayward travelers, it was as if we had stumbled upon the Fountain of Youth. We limped into the auto bay, handed over the keys and apologized to the mechanic for the yet-to-be identified smell of the interior. I considered pulling the food off the dash board and then thought hmmm – warm lunch for later. I walked away not caring if I ever got back into the van again.
As I watched my children frolicking in the freezer section, I pondered our current situation. We had prepared for the move and traveled so far only to be caught off guard. Again. We were stuck in the moment, with a most unlikely sanctuary suddenly appearing.
For many Veterans, transition may be like a desert experience. After years of forward progress, professional success and reliable constants, they come to a sudden stop where there appears to be no help in sight. An abrupt halt they thought they were prepared for but perhaps were not.
Our military and their families acknowledge there are certain constants in this lifestyle of choice. We know a deployment is always in our near future, as well as moves, multiple school changes for our children, and an ‘interesting’ housing choice at each station. Let’s not forget the most important constant of all: separation and retirement. You might be Captain America right now, but at some point, the military is going to break up with you. It is a reality.
While meeting sudden, emergency needs like ours in 2005, Walmart also recognizes the long-lasting constants. They recognize that life can get hard, and they recognize the connection between their company and Veteran hiring needs.
In 2013 the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment was started in an effort to identify and hire Veterans. Leaving the military can be one of the most difficult transitions a Veteran will face, and Walmart guarantees a job for all eligible, honorably discharged U.S. Veterans separated from active duty since Memorial Day of 2013. The company has a goal of hiring 250,000 Veterans by the end of 2020 and have already reached over 75% of that goal.
According to the Department of Defense, more than 1,300 new Veterans and their family members return to civilian life every day. 1,300! The transition from active duty to civilian life can be difficult at times, and for some, debilitating. Walmart is attempting to bridge the gap understanding the elite nature and capabilities of our Veterans and their spouses. They recognize the honorably discharged Veteran is a highly-trained, expertly skilled leader with a desire to achieve, long after separation from the military. The company has recognized the need and recently announced that it has hired more than 194,000 Veterans and promoted more than 28,000 to positions of greater responsibility nationwide since 2013.
But wait…there’s more…Walmart is not done yet.
In a first-of-its-kind event, Walmart co-sponsored Veteran EDGE, a three-day conference and training summit dedicated to Veteran-owned businesses. The corporation is passionate in their desire to assist Veterans and their spouses in search of meaningful careers not just through their hiring programs but also through entrepreneurial efforts. An all-in for Veterans not simply to find them a job but to assist them throughout their entire career journey.
Through a partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, Veteran EDGE was held February 16-18 in Austin, Texas. The conference targeted Veteran and military spouse small business owners from across the country by providing opportunities for networking and the sharing of business ideas.
More than 5 million Americans are employed by the more than 2.5 million Veteran owned businesses in the U.S. generating more than 1.1 trillion in sales annually. Needless to say, Veteran owned businesses play a vital role in our nation’s economy.
And I should point out that fewer than 1% of our country’s citizens currently serve in the armed forces.
For Veterans and their families, transition can be a very unstable and constantly shifting environment. But, Walmart recognizes the value in supporting and hiring this superior group as employees and potential leaders of their corporation. And just as they worked to get us back on the road to our new duty station, so Walmart works to get our Veterans on their way to a bright future.
Consider the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment an anchor and a new constant in your time of transition.
To learn more about Walmart’s Veterans Welcome Home Commitment and overall support to veterans, service members and their families, visit www.walmartcareerwithamission.com
To learn more about the first-of-its-kind Veteran EDGE event, visit https://ivmf.syracuse.edu/veteranedge/