Soldier to Wal-Mart job? Mentor helps Iraq vet adjust

walmart veterans program
Ed Trigg (left) and Monte Johnson meet at least once a week at Wal-Mart.

Veterans returning from active duty face big hurdles when they transition back into civilian life with a regular job.

Having a mentor can really help.

"There were so many things I had to deal with, but I didn't seem to have a lot of luck," said Monte Johnson, an Oklahoma National Guard, who returned after serving two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His luck changed when he landed a job at Wal-Mart (WMT) and met Ed Trigg.

Trigg, a former military man himself, has worked at Wal-Mart for 23 years. He's in charge of mentoring vets who work at the retail company in his region and helping them transition into their jobs.

"As a veteran, I can relate to the new ones coming in," said Trigg, who served six years in the Army. "I want to make them feel comfortable, make sure they understand the company culture."

Johnson feels fortunate to have Trigg as a mentor, having had a rough transition into civilian life. He went for seven-and-a-half months without a job after coming back from the war zone in early 2012.

"Everything that I had worked for to get ahead was essentially destroyed when I got back," he said. "It was a heartache for me and my family."

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That was until October 2012, when he landed a job in the logistics division near Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

Getting the job was a big morale boost. A regular paycheck was a huge relief. But Johnson had to deal with a few challenges.

For someone returning from the stresses of combat, a regular eight-hour shift was already a big adjustment. He also lived several hours away in Oklahoma. So the first thing he had to do was find a place where he would live during the week, while his family continued to stay in Oklahoma.

On top of that, he had to figure out medical compensation from injuries he sustained serving abroad.

That's where Trigg came in. It helps that Trigg also works in logistics as an operations manager. He and Johnson meet at least once a week, sometimes three.

The two talk about everything from how Johnson's pregnant wife is feeling, to how he's coping while living away from his family.

He's also helped Johnson find a place to live and helped him understand how things work at Wal-Mart.

Trigg has even printed out announcements for jobs Johnson's wife could apply for, to smooth her transition once she moves to Bentonville.

"The biggest thing is that he's really helped deal with some of the stresses I have a veteran," Johnson said. "It's a great feeling knowing that I can reach out to someone who has a similar background and has faced some of the challenges that I have."

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