By Tom Shull, Army & Air Force Exchange Service Director/CEO
For 122 years, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service has been honored to serve America’s heroes: Soldiers, families and retirees. We have worked to preserve our Soldiers’ access to goods and services wherever duty takes them, including remote areas like Poland and Romania and combat locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the years have passed, the Exchange has proved it is much more than a retailer – it is at the heart of military communities around the world. The Exchange is the place where every member of the Military family can shop, dine, entertain and be appreciated for their service. 85 percent of Exchange associates have a connection to the military. Our associates have served or are the parents, siblings and family members for those who have or are serving. We are indeed family serving family.
Further, every dollar of earnings goes right back into the military community. When retired Soldiers like you use your hard-earned Exchange benefit, you also make life better for those who wear the uniform today. It is a virtuous cycle that only the Exchange can provide. In 2016, the Exchange distributed $225 million to programs across all Services.
Roughly two-thirds of Exchange earnings support vital, yet budget-constrained, Quality-of-Life programs. In 2016, the Exchange distributed $128 million to Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs, helping to fund Child Development Centers, Youth Services, fitness centers and more. This funding is crucial to maintaining these critical programs for Soldiers and their families. By shopping with us in store or at ShopMyExchange.com, retired Soldiers are doing their part to ensure today’s Soldiers and families remain ready, resilient and taken care of. As the Exchange serves Airmen, Marines and Sailors, funds are generated for their Quality-of-Life programs as well.
The remaining one-third of Exchange earnings goes toward improving the customer experience. In 2016 alone, the Exchange invested $223 million in new, revamped and expanded facilities and improvements to ShopMyExchange.com. In the last 10 years, more than $4billion has been returned to the Services in support of all these programs. As retired Soldiers, you benefit firsthand from these enhancements.
Exciting developments are coming this fall. Beginning Veterans Day, the military exchanges will welcome home all honorably discharged Veterans to their military communities with an online shopping benefit. Shopping online tax-free will give Veterans a chance to reconnect with their military community while allowing the Exchange to generate additional dividends for Quality-of-Life programs.
Invite Veterans to visit VetVerify.org today to verify their eligibility to shop online. Awareness of this benefit has been gaining momentum through word of mouth. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and actor Mark Wahlberg, who portrayed Luttrell in the movie “Lone Survivor,” recorded this video shoutout in support of the benefit. We are excited to honor the many unretired Veterans who have selflessly served our Nation. Please spread the word!
Thank you for your patronage all these years. The Exchange appreciates all you have sacrificed for our great Nation. It is an honor to be able to continue to serve you and your family.
Soldier For Life!
Tom Shull, a former infantry company commander, served as Military Assistant to Robert C. McFarlane, National Security Advisor to President Reagan. Currently, he is the Army & Air Force Exchange Service's Director/CEO and has served as CEO for retail and consumer packaged goods companies.