HAMPTON, Va. – Tyson Foods’ commitment to the US military and military veterans was highlighted at an Oct. 19 event attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Donnie Smith, Tyson president and CEO, was part of a group that met privately with the Obamas before the First Lady announced a major initiative by military commissary suppliers to hire more veterans and military family members as part of the “Joining Forces” initiative.

“As the No. 1 food supplier to military commissaries worldwide, an active employer of veterans and a strong advocate for quality of life for military families, we are proud to be here,” said Smith, who was one of eight food company executives on hand at a Langley Air Force Base event.

Tyson is part of the American Logistics Association, which on Oct. 19 committed to hiring 25,000 veterans and military spouses over the next two years.

“Tyson Foods supports and honors veterans,” Smith said. “We’ve employed thousands of veterans over the years and we’re always looking to hire more. Not only are they excellent workers who are well-trained and have strong leadership skills, they also have a dedication, honesty and accountability that fits with the Tyson culture.”

The Obamas were introduced by Melissa Lee, one of the more than 3,000 military veterans currently employed by Tyson, at today’s event. Lee is a Tyson attorney who served briefly in the Army National Guard and spent most of her service as a Signal officer on active duty in the US Army Reserve. She served in Iraq and Afghanistan, holds the rank of Colonel and is assigned to the 335th Signal Command (Theatre) headquartered in East Point, Ga.

Tyson Foods indirectly employs, through brokers, more than 500 military family members and veterans who help stock Tyson products at military commissaries. The company regularly makes a concerted effort to hire junior military officers who have received training from an outside agency on how to transition from the military to the business world. It also recruits veterans by participating in several military job fairs annually and by using various military websites.

Tyson also provides differential pay for all employees called to active military duty, making up the difference between military compensation and pay they normally receive from Tyson. Since Sept. 11, 2001, Tyson has provided more than $2 million in differential pay to almost 400 employees.

The company has a Veterans Business Resource Group for military veterans who work at the company’s corporate headquarters in Arkansas. The group, chaired by Lee, partners with the company’s Human Resources Department to help hired veterans successfully transition to the business world.

The Veterans BRG also gives the veterans employed by Tyson the opportunity to become active in community initiatives like Honor Flight. It is also involved in sending holiday care packages to fellow employees, family members and friends serving the US military in the Middle East.

In recent years, Tyson Foods also has provided food for the Wounded Warrior Picnics at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and for certain welcome home parties for soldiers returning from overseas assignments. Tyson is also the leading supplier of food to the Defense Commissary Agency and has been helping feed the US military and their families for more than 50 years.