NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer and the nation's largest private employer, is making a pledge to hire every recently discharged veteran who wants a job.

The plan is set to be announced as part of an address delivered in New York on Tuesday at the annual retail industry convention by Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart's namesake U. S. business.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., says it projects it will hire more than 100,000 veterans in the next five years. Honorably discharged veterans will have a "place to go", says Wal-Mart's Simon, according to prepared text supplied by the discounter. The hiring pledge, which will begin on Memorial Day, covers veterans within 12 months of leaving active duty. Most of the jobs will be in Wal-Mart's stores or its Sam's club locations. Some will be in the company's distribution centers.

"Let's be clear; hiring a veteran can be one of the best decisions any of us can make," Simon plans to say in his address to retailers gathered on the third day of the four-day National Retail Federation convention. "Veterans have a record of performance under pressure. They're quick learners, and they're team players. These are leaders with discipline, training, and a passion for service. There is a seriousness and sense of purpose that the military instills, and we need it today more than ever."

Wal-Mart says it believes it is already the large private employer of veterans in the country.

The company says that it has spoken to the White House about its commitment, and said the First Lady Michelle Obama's team has already expressed an interest in working with Wal-Mart and with the rest of the business community.

In the next several weeks, the White House will convene the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and major U. S. employers to encourage businesses to make significant commitments to train and employ American's returning veterans, according to Simon's prepared text.

First lady Michelle Obama, who's spearheaded a White House drive to encourage businesses to hire veterans, praised Wal-Mart's announcement, calling it "historic."

"We all believe that no one who serves our country should have to fight for a job once they return home," Mrs. Obama said in the statement. "Wal-Mart is setting a groundbreaking example for the private sector to follow."

Wal-Mart which also operates Sam's Clubs, employs more than 1.4 million workers in the U. S.

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Associated Press writer Mark S. Smith contributed to this report from Washington, D. C.

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