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There is a fabulous story in this morning’s edition of The New York Times about how the war in Iraq has affected various Wal-Marts around the country that are located near military bases. “At Wal-Mart, which sometimes functions in its vastness as a kind of substitute town square, the impact of the war in Iraq is on display around the clock,” the NYT writes.

There is an amazing moment early in the piece where a woman comes in to buy luggage, and tells the cashier tearfully that her husband was killed in Iraq, and that she must now move away. The cashier began to cry, then other cashiers…because they all have husbands and sons who are involved in the conflict.

“For Wal-Mart, the country's biggest company and employer of more people than any entity except the government, only something like a war could force the kinds of changes it has made since the fighting began,” the NYT writes. “Computers normally used for gift registry now send e-mail greetings to the military. On the internal Wal-Mart television network, the usual loop of giddy promotions for Mary Kate and Ashley apparel, garden tools and DVD's is interrupted twice a day for live briefings from the White House and the Pentagon.”

The situation has put people working in stores on patrol for both shoppers and employees who are quiet, withdrawn, or openly tearful, emotionally impacted by the events in Iraq unfolding 24 hours a day on the nation’s television screens, trying to show sensitivity “as they shepherd workers through problems larger than any they have had to handle before.”

The NYT writes that “the store near Camp Lejeune put up a ‘wall of heroes,’ an unusual addition to the standard-issue Wal-Mart layout. It is filled with photographs of individual Marines and in some cases, entire units, placed there by relatives who shop or work at that store.” In addition, “some stores have organized collections of food, toiletries, clothing and other items for the troops and their families left back home.”
KC's View:
This is just a terrific piece, and can be found at the NYT website:

Wal-Mart often is portrayed as a heartless behemoth of a company, but this piece reminds us that Wal-Mart, like every other retailer, is made up of real people with real-world concerns…and in this case, world-class compassion.