Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Walgreens committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace. Walgreens is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more.

Walgreens recently announced a pledge to hire 5,000 veterans over the next five years.

The company has also created the national Helping Veterans with Education and Retail Opportunities (HERO) program so that veterans not only have a job but a path to leadership and future success.

Stephen Johnson, an Army veteran and Walgreens regional vice president, says that hiring veterans doesn't just benefit former military families; it helps Walgreens too.

“Our customers are from all of America, and we want our employees to reflect that,” he said. “We accept Tricare and have many military patrons near military bases, so why not hire veterans? We want to feed the future leadership of Walgreens so employees can work their way up the leadership chain.”

The HERO program uses a veteran's leadership capabilities to compliment the skills needed in retail management training, college credit–eligible courses, and instructor-led workshops. Through a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University, veterans also receive discounts on college classes so they can complete a degree. All this can be done while the veteran works full time in a Walgreens store.

Johnson knows precisely why veterans make excellent employees worth investing in. “Military leadership books are teaching the same leadership skills we want in our company,” he explained. “We are looking for someone who shows up on time every day, works hard, and knows how to communicate. It doesn't matter what your MOS was, but the soft skills you learned will apply no matter where you go. In infantry, you acquire critical communication skills.”

To attract 5,000 veterans over the next five years, Walgreens has trained human resources recruiters in every state and district. “We work with military bases and job/resume fairs to talk to active duty members so they can already have a job lined up before leaving the military,” Johnson said. “There is so much going on when you transition to civilian life. You don't want to be worried about finding a job and losing income. The recruiters work with the folks at base teaching transition classes, so we know who is getting ready to retire and might want a Walgreens interview. This will help us find future leaders in the company.”

Willie Myles is an Army veteran and Walgreens employee currently enrolled in the HERO program. He served 14 years as a chemical defense specialist and deployed to Iraq multiple times, but the time spent away from family became a strain, and he decided it was time to transition to civilian life. Myles initially moved to his hometown in Georgia and spent eight years working at one of the only large stores there. When a Walgreens finally came to town, Myles noticed a difference on his first visit.

“What stood out was as soon as I walked in, I was greeted,” he said. “Everyone throughout the store was friendly, and that caught my attention. Interaction with customers is important to me. The next day, I got the store manager's name and talked to her. She referred me to a store in Tallahassee. The store manager there encouraged me to apply and helped set up an interview.”

After he applied, Myles was directed to the HERO program by his district manager. Walgreens wants all veteran employees to have access to the HERO program because the leadership training complements soft skills like communication, organization, and hard work that they have already learned in the military. Myles is now an assistant store manager trainee.

“With HERO, you get training to help you move up and get promoted,” he said. “The HERO program works hand in hand with military education benefits, because it gives you a discount on your bachelor's, so now your GI Bill will go further and possibly help pay for your master's. I am still in the training process, but after just four months, I am able to apply for college and get the discount. That encouraged me to grow professionally and personally.”

Both Johnson and Myles agree that Walgreens corporate culture is a good fit for military veterans. Myles said he felt comfortable in the company from Day 1. The company made sure new employees were welcomed and received organized instructions, so they knew their job expectations.

For Myles, military life prepared him well for working at Walgreens. “Everything changes, and the military teaches you to adapt to change,” he said. “That helps me out in my role at Walgreens. I have to mentor my team and help them adapt. One thing I like about Walgreens is that everyone adapts. and that's what I was trained to do.”

Veterans interested in applying for Walgreens positions and the HERO program can do so through the Walgreens website.

This post sponsored by Walgreens