May 2, 2013

USO of Metropolitan New York’s 47th Woman of the Year Luncheon

Walmart U.S. Executive Vice President and COO Gisel Ruiz received the 2013 Woman of the Year Distinguished Service Award at the USO of Metropolitan New York’s 47th Woman of the Year Luncheon.

Remarks as prepared for delivery

“I’m so incredibly honored to be here today and to have been selected as this year’s Distinguished Service Award winner.  It’s such a privilege to stand up here today in the company of General Janet Wolfenbarger and the other esteemed honorees.  Congratulations to all of you and thank you for all that you do for us and our country.

“I want to appreciate Brian Whiting for his leadership and his personal commitment to our nation’s heroes, and his team and the USO of Metropolitan New York for recognizing what we, at Walmart, are doing to support our veterans.  The USO is truly special.  A little piece of home.  A welcome break from the strife.  A healthy dose of hope.

“When I got the call about this honor, I was humbled.  And also a little surprised.  

“I’ve never been through boot camp.  I’ve never been sent on a life-threatening mission.  I’ve never had to say goodbye to my two daughters and wonder with a broken heart when I would see them next.

“And then I realized: that’s the point.  We all have a role to play.  Every civilian, every business, every organization has the opportunity, the obligation, to protect what’s great about our country.

“And that’s why I’m here.

“I am here to humbly represent one American company that believes in the power of our veterans and sees the benefit of getting them back to work.

“I am a representative of the 1.2 million U.S. associates who proudly call America home.  Of the 100,000 veterans who currently work for Walmart.  A representative of a leadership team who takes this commitment very seriously.

“And I happen to be lucky enough to be in a position at this great company to help veterans get what they need and they deserve. It’s not just my responsibility, it’s my privilege.You see, Walmart is growing!  And with growth comes jobs.  So we are hiring every single day.  And we want to hire veterans!  So we are.

Veteran Commitment
“In January, our U.S. President and CEO, Bill Simon announced that starting on Memorial Day 2013 Walmart will offer a job to any honorably discharged veteran within his or her first twelve months off active duty. 

“We project that the Walmart Veterans Welcome Home Commitment will result in hiring more than 100,000 veterans over the next five years. 

“Most of these jobs will be in our stores and clubs across the country, some will be in our distribution centers and corporate Home Office.  

“We recognize that not all veterans want a career in retail but every veteran who does will now have a place to go.  

“Let me be clear.  Walmart’s commitment to hiring veterans is not a fashionable trend.  It’s not a charitable cause.   It’s a strategic decision we made because we have seen firsthand the positive impact veterans have on business.

“Associates like Jessica Crow.

“Her leadership skills were apparent immediately, and she now leads a team of nearly 500 people running a $103 million business.  

“Or John Baschoff, who did two tours in Iraq and was awarded the bronze star in 2005.  John now oversees asset protection for the entire market of metro Philadelphia.

“And Ben Liang.  Ben worked his way up the ranks from Private to First Lieutenant.  He is currently serving in the New York Army National Guard as the Executive Assistant to Brigadier General Swezey - one of the top military commanders in New York State.  He joined us in 2012, and is now an assistant manager in North Jersey. 

“And I’m pleased that they’re here with us today.  Jessica, John, and Ben – will you please stand and let us thank you for your service?

“We will hire 100,000 more veterans over the next five years…it’s going to make a difference to those people, to our business and it’s going to help get America back on track.

“I’m incredibly proud of my company’s commitment to this effort.

“As many of you know, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden have been leading a fantastic effort called Joining Forces to serve our nation’s military families. 

“Walmart and the White House have partnered to make an even greater impact.  In fact, our CEO Bill Simon was in Washington earlier this week to share our progress and talk about next steps.  

“But we also see the necessity and the benefit of partnering with other businesses.  So we recently sent a letter to 50 CEOs urging them to consider joining this effort and to make hiring pledges of their own.  

“Moving forward not just as individual companies but as a united business community means we can offer veterans a wider range of opportunities across different industries and occupations.  And together we can act with the urgency this cause demands.  

“The private sector can step up for our heroes.  And we can do this now.  

Call to Action
“We all have a role to play.  And it’s going to take all of us rallying around this effort to make it happen, especially those of you here today who are business leaders …who have resource, job opportunities and passion on your side.

“It doesn’t have to be national in scope to make a meaningful difference.  It doesn’t have to be covered in the media to matter.  

“Just choose to do something.  Hire some veterans.  Develop them into the exceptional leaders they can be.  Consider other ways to assist veterans and their families like the USO.  Get creative.  Or write a check!

“Whatever works for you and your organization.  You are here today, so clearly your heart is in it.  And you believe in our collective responsibility to give back.

“Go do it!  Our veterans need you.  America needs you.

Appreciation of Veterans
“I just want to close by thanking all of the service members and veterans here today who have sacrificed so very much for America.

“Your stories inspire.  Your courage pushes the rest of us to be better, to be more grateful.  Your actions protect the greatest nation in the world. 

“We owe you a debt that we can never repay.  We can only hope to honor your service and your sacrifice in a way that is worthy of you.

“At Walmart our pledge is this: Those who fought for us abroad should not have to fight for jobs at home.   Through your service, you give us a land of freedom.  When you come home, it must be to a land of possibility.”