Walmart Is Urging People Everywhere to Do This One Simple Thing for Veterans

Saatchi promotes 'Greenlight a Vet'

Former U.S. military personnel discuss the challenges of transitioning back to civilian life in a series of straightforward yet stirring short videos from Saatchi & Saatchi New York promoting Walmart's "Greenlight a Vet" initiative.

The program, launched last week in association with veteran advocacy groups ahead of Veterans Day next Wednesday, asks Americans to change one light in their homes or offices to green in honor of those who have served.

"It's hard to show them our appreciation when, out of uniform, they're more camouflaged than ever," explains the voiceover in the 40-second TV spot below that gives an overview of the program.

Those jade flickers illuminating a city at night, and the muted olive glow of entryway lamps on a street of suburban homes, also appear in two-minute clips that put the spotlight on individual veterans. In the next video, we meet Lourdes, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving a tour of duty with the Army in Iraq.

"Being in a place where tomorrow's not guaranteed, you learn how to value life," she says. "I went to Iraq, and I made it back home. So I can do anything."

Next up is Ian, a 14-year member of the U.S. Marine Corps who took part in dangerous missions overseas. Now in his 40s, Ian still crops his hair in classic Marine fashion and stays fit by running with a 65-pound pack on his back, just like he did in the Corps.

Then there's Lauren, who, after leaving the Army, was diagnosed with multiple disabilities, but ultimately thrived thanks to help from a service dog. Now, she runs Independence Paws, a service-dog organization.

These stories—and you can view more clips below—are inspiring and emotionally charged, but not overstated or manipulative beyond what we've come to expect from social-issues campaigns. In fact, the PSAs strike just the right tone, allowing vets to cast themselves in an honest light (detailing their setbacks and triumphs) rather than having others, who might misunderstand what they're going through, define them.

As for the green lights themselves, Walmart notes that the color universally symbolizes "go," which is meant as a tribute to veterans' willingness "to take action quickly no matter the challenge." At the very least, the campaign puts their plight in perspective, and perhaps allows civilians to appreciate the sacrifices made by men and women who routinely shine in circumstances most of us would do just about anything to avoid.

Of course, Walmart is always an easy target for criticism, no matter what it does. But to its credit, the company has pledged to hire 250,000 veterans by 2020. The company hired its 100,000th vet last month, and has committed $20 million in grants to support organizations that provide job training, education and other veterans services.

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.