70 years ago this month, the world changed…

By Exchange Director/CEO Tom Shull

This month marks a significant milestone in history. Seventy years ago, on Aug. 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender, ending World War II.

In the 44 months between Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and her surrender, the Army Exchange Service was alongside Soldiers as they began their march across the Pacific. The Exchange's service in World War II strikes a personal chord with me. In fact, my father was aboard the USS Missouri when General Douglas MacArthur signed the surrender treaty.

The first Exchange in the Pacific opened in Brisbane, Australia, on April 5, 1942, after a seven-ship convoy of U.S. troops arrived there. That same year, my father arrived in the Pacific as a lieutenant.

My father ultimately would spend more than 40 months there. During that time, General MacArthur promoted him to lieutenant colonel. When the 30-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Shull returned to his family and home, he knew the value of the Exchange.

Exchanges quickly spread to support troops in Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, India and Burma. By the end of the European phase of the war in May 1945, the number of exchanges on the continent reached more than 2,400. Operations had also grown to include distribution centers, soft drink manufacturing plants and breweries.

I often think of my father's service during World War II. He served in the Army for 30 years, and he instilled in me a love of country and service toward others. For me, one of the most rewarding aspects of working for the Army & Air Force Exchange Service is that we are family serving family. This Exchange core value always comes to mind when the topic turns to World War II.

I'm honored to represent an organization that was there for my dad during the time he spent fighting in a foreign country. Knowing that the Exchange was able to provide him with a taste of home and, possibly, a brief break from war, is why we serve those who serve.

No matter when you served-from World War II to Vietnam, the Cold War to the Global War on Terror-the Exchange team appreciates all you and your families have sacrificed. It's been a privilege to serve alongside you-and it's an honor to serve you in retirement as well.

Tom Shull, a former infantry company commander, is the first civilian Director/CEO of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service. Before coming to the Exchange, he served on the National Security Council staff in the Reagan White House and served as CEO for several renowned retailers and consumer goods companies.