On Memorial Day, millions of Americans will salute the courage and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

Coca-Cola is honored to give our veterans our full support. Last year around this time, we pledged to hire at least 800 military veterans in 2012. We surpassed that commitment, hiring 888 veterans, and we’re on track to exceed this total in 2013. I cannot think of a better way to say “thank you” to our veterans and their families.

Our relationship with the U.S. military dates back to 1941 during World War II, when chairman Robert Woodruff "committed to see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the company." Mr. Woodruff knew this simple pleasure would inspire a few moments of optimism and happiness when both were in short supply. That same decade, we began a more than 70-year partnership with the USO, and today we provide military personnel with more than 2 million beverage servings per day. Our veterans recruitment strategy is designed to identify and acquire military talent at all levels through specialized training for company recruiters and hiring managers and a military career website. We also develop partnerships with the U.S. Department of Defense and participate in key military career conferences, job fairs and networking events. And our Military Veteran Business Resource Group links veterans, non-veterans and their family members from all branches of military service.

In addition to recruiting military veterans for a variety of roles in our company, The Coca-Cola Foundation is hiring veterans as fitness trainers in Chicago and San Antonio, and we’re expanding to other markets in the United States. This program is called Troops for Fitness, and it’s an important part of our commitment to create awareness around choice and active living, and to help people make informed decisions for themselves and their families.

And we’re not alone. Companies like Walmart, The Home Depot, General Electric, 7-Eleven and Bank of America, to name a few, are actively supporting and hiring military veterans.

Why? Because in addition to being the right thing to do, hiring veterans makes good business sense. Here are a few of the many reasons why veterans have both the skillset and mindset to make organizations like ours stronger and more disciplined in a rapidly changing global economy:

  1. Leadership: Veterans are nimble decision-makers and troubleshooters who can think and act on their feet and under pressure. In addition, they are natural team-builders and collaborators.
  2. Expertise: The U.S. military provides unparalleled training in technical and people skills that transcend function and geography, which means veterans enter the civilian workforce as credentialed professionals and proven peak performers.
  3. Character: Military personnel channel a positive, mission-first energy, a relentless work ethic and a can-do, get-it-done attitude that’s both inspiring and contagious. And because of their physical training, veterans make excellent role models who inspire those around them to become more active, healthy and fit.
  4. Sense of Duty: With a demonstrated commitment to the greater good, veterans live and breathe the values of honor, respect, integrity and courage each day. They take pride in their work and hold themselves and their teams accountable for results.
  5. Global Perspective: Veterans are culturally conversant and represent a diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives.
In short, veterans provide as much value for business as business does for them. Our military personnel have voluntarily endured hardships to serve and protect our country. We believe that when they return home, they deserve support and recognition from organizations like Coca-Cola.