(CBS/AP)-- Wal-Mart is making a big promise to veterans. America's largest private employer is offering a job to any recent military vet who wants one. The plan targets a large group of people that are looking for work.
Wal-Mart's five year plan promises a job to any veteran who has been honorably discharged from active duty within the past 12 months. In doing so, it would double that number of veterans working in its stores and offices, from 100,000 to 200,000 veterans.
Wal-Mart chief executive officer Bill Simon unveiled the plan Tuesday in New York. He said at the time, "Not every returning veteran wants to work in retail. But every veteran who does, will have a place to go."
Janise Hooper is an Air Force veteran looking for part-time work as she studies to be a nurse. She said of Wal-Mart's action, "That's a lot of people to hire. I hope they stick to it because I know there are a lot of unemployed vets that can really use the help."
There are more veterans out of work than in the general population: the unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is 10.8 percent, a full three percent higher than the national rate of 7.8 percent.
Jeffrey McZeal, a veteran who's been out of work for six months, said he hopes Wal-Mart's plan will inspire others. McZeal said, "I thought that was a great thing, I mean I don't hear any other companies making that type of commitment. So, with Wal-Mart doing it, Wal-Mart being kind of big, everybody knows of Wal-Mart, it's a household name, hopefully some others will follow just the same."
Because he was discharged in 2001, he would not be eligible for Wal-Mart's new hiring plan. "I wish this could have been done a long time ago," he said. "But better now than never."
Wal-Mart also announced a $50 billion "Buy American" program the company says is part of its effort to stimulate the U.S. economy. The lan comes at a time when the retail giant has been the target of workers who want higher salaries and more opportunities for full-time work. The company's offer to hire veterans that apply will begin on Memorial Day.