America Supports You: Overseas Troops Enjoy ‘Gifts From Homefront’
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 12, 2007 For nearly four years, overseas-deployed servicemembers have been redeeming gift certificates at military exchange stores as part of a successful troop-support program.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service, as well as the Navy and Coast Guard exchange programs, co-sponsor the “Gifts from the Homefront” program, which began in March 2003, AAFES spokesman Judd Anstey said. Certificates are available in denominations from $5 to $50, he said, and can be used to purchase items at AAFES and other military-store facilities worldwide.
“The gift certificate effort makes it easy for troops to pick up items normally included in a ‘traditional’ care package at exchange facilities throughout operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom,” Anstey said.
Gifts from the Homefront partners with America Supports You, a Defense Department-sponsored program highlighting the ways Americans are supporting the nation’s servicemembers, Anstey said.
“America Supports You and other troop-support programs demonstrate a tangible show of support that means a lot to our overseas troops,” Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Bryan Eaton, AAFES senior enlisted advisor, said.
Anyone, including people not affiliated with the military, can purchase the certificates, Anstey said. The American public has sent 80,221 gift certificates to servicemembers since the program began, he added.
More than 22,000 of those certificates have been distributed to servicemembers through the Air Force Aid Society, the American Red Cross, Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, Fisher House, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Operation Homefront, Operation Interdependence, Soldier and Family Assistance Centers, USA Cares, and the United Service Organizations, Anstey said.
Reports say servicemembers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are redeeming the gift certificates to obtain the latest popular music on compact discs and movies on digital video discs, snacks, beverages, and phone cards, Anstey said. Besides at AAFES’ stores, the gift certificates also can be redeemed in Navy Exchange and Coast Guard Exchange stores.
There are 55 AAFES stores in overseas theaters of operation, Anstey noted, including 26 in Iraq, 11 in Kuwait, eight in Afghanistan, three in Qatar, one in Kyrgyzstan, one in Djibouti, and five in other locations.
“The stock assortment found in these exchanges varies from location to location, but even the most basic operation provides access to toiletries, phone cards and cold drinks,” Anstey said.
“There’s no ‘corner store’ in Iraq or Afghanistan,” Eaton pointed out, noting military exchanges “go where our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines go.”
People wishing to participate in the program can log onto the AAFES’ Web site or phone 877-770-4438, Anstey said. Gift certificates may be sent to individual servicemembers designated by purchasers or forwarded to “any servicemember,” he said.