BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Keesler Air Force Base is home to thousands of service men and women. Some will be getting out soon, looking for work in the civilian world. The unemployment rate for vets hovers around 8%. Walmart wants to change that.
Brian Thomas is the Walmart market manager. "It's a shame that veterans who fight for us overseas come back and they have to fight for a job, so we want to try and make that process easy." Thomas explained. "We know that all veterans don't necessarily want a job in retail, but for those that do, we're willing to provide them with one."
Customers like Donald Garrett like the plan. "As a retired VA employee, I have always been concerned about veteran's issues and I think it's wonderful that Walmart would invest in the veterans," Garrett said.
Veterans themselves applaud the initiative. Lt. General Clark Griffith retired from Keesler. "Well, I think they are smart as they can be. My goodness, where are you going to find a group of individuals that are highly trained, highly motivated and disciplined and by the way, they've got good core values," the general said.
While some might think this initiative by Walmart is patriotic, others may think it's risky, it's really not. Because veterans bring something to the table that Walmart needs, according to Thomas. "Veterans bring a quality to us that others simply can't. They are great team players, they're disciplined, and they make great associates."
The Walmart plan seems to be catching on at Keesler. John Lowe is the community readiness consultant for the base. "As you can see on the board behind me, we're contacted by corporations daily. They are looking for members that are getting ready to separate so there are a lot of different agencies that are out there," Lowe said.
Good news for vets, and the companies that hire them.
Walmart officials say they expect to hire up to 100,000 vets in the next five years under the program, which officially begins this Monday, Memorial Day.
They also say no civilian workers will be displaced when the vets are hired.