Since the DoD suspended mail addressed to “any servicemember” nearly six years ago, individuals and organizations back home, as well as troops deployed to the contingency theater, have devised a variety of cumbersome, and sometimes potentially dangerous, methods to circumvent security and transportation concerns that originally led to the cancellation of the program.
Noting the great lengths being taken, including posting the full name and rotation dates of Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors to the Internet or sending enough feminine and oral hygiene products to meet the needs of an entire battalion to the attention of one person, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) began working to create a program that would allow any American to safely send support to “any servicemember.”
The resulting “Gifts from the Homefront” program today makes it possible for anyone to leverage services and products already “on the ground” and available at military exchanges throughout Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom through lightweight gift certificates that can be routed to “any servicemember” without compromising safety or creating additional demands on the military postal system.
Some four years after the launch of “Gifts from the Homefront” in March 2003, the American public has sent 92,240 “BX/PX” gift certificates totaling nearly $2 million.
“The outpouring of support has been very encouraging,” said AAFES’ Senior Enlisted Advisor Chief Master Sgt. Bryan Eaton. “It’s understandable as the effort is a win/win for all involved; the sender saves money on postage and doesn’t need a direct point of contact while the recipients can go into an exchange and redeem the gift certificate for exactly what they need.”
“Gifts from the Homefront” can be sent to deployed troops by logging on to www.aafes.org or calling 877-770-4438. From there, the gift certificates are sent to individual service members (designated by the purchaser) or distributed to “any service member” through the Air Force Aid Society, American Red Cross, Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes, Fisher House, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Operation Homefront, Operation Interdependence® or USO. “Gifts from the Homefront” gift certificates can be redeemed at exchange facilities worldwide. Recent reports indicate troops shopping their contingency exchanges are reaching for movies, snacks, Military Exchange Global prepaid phone cards and more.