Like any successful company, Wal-Mart knows a public relations coup when it sees one.

Plans announced recently are textbook perfect: The nation’s largest private employer said it would hire every recent veteran seeking a job, amounting to 100,000 hires over five years.

Dismissing this as a stunt, however, would be a mistake.

Wal-Mart’s commitment to hire such a large number of veterans — and more importantly, its endorsement of their value as workers — is meaningful and one we hope will set an example for others to follow.

Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have had a tough haul.

Their unemployment rates outpace the nation as a whole, with veterans encountering difficulty with a perception among employers that former soldiers are unstable and lack skills that are transferable to the civilian world.

Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart U.S., took a step toward dispelling that stereotype with this:

“Hiring a veteran can be one of the best business decisions you make,” Simon, a Navy veteran, said in a speech to the National Retail Federation. “Veterans have a record of performance under pressure. They’re quick leaders and team players.”

We have no illusions that Wal-Mart will erase the veteran unemployment rate or solve all the financial problems for hired vets. Hourly Wal-Mart wages are still too low to support a family and far too many Wal-Mart employees get stuck with part-time hours when they want full-time work.

Wal-Mart has made many missteps for which it must make amends, which is often in the backdrop when big initiatives are announced. That is the gift of advocates and journalists who expose Wal-Mart’s flaws.

They push Wal-Mart, and hopefully all of us, to do better. Today’s beneficiaries are 100,000 veterans who admirably served our country and deserve to be welcomed home with open arms.

— Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 15

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.