At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, the late Maj. Gen. Kathryn Frost, the Army & Air Force Exchange Services' (AAFES') commander at the time, immediately recognized the need for a program that not only supported troops downrange, but one that could also alleviate the crush of packages being sent into a war zone. With that in mind, the "Gifts from the Homefront" was launched.
"In our efforts to help, we need to be conscious of the strain that is often placed on the military postal system," said General Frost in 2004. "Packages are nice, but unlike a care package, a Gift from the Homefront gift certificate is quickly available - no sluggish mail, no wait and no expensive shipping costs. This program gets comfort items into the hands of troops fast and helps to relieve the burden of the military postal system."
In the five years since General Frost and AAFES implemented the "Gifts from the Homefront" program, people from all over the country have rallied around military families by contributing $2,244,195 toward the program designed to lift the morale of Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines stationed around the world.
"Gifts from the Homefront" can be sent to deployed troops by logging on to www.aafes.org
or calling 877-770-4438. From there, BX/PX 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. These charitable partners have distributed 24,815 certificates, totaling more than $480,000, earmarked for "any servicemember."
"Gifts from the Homefront" can be redeemed at exchange facilities worldwide including more than 70 Base and Post Exchanges throughout Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Since the effort's inception, troops have redeemed 67,245 gift certificates for movies, snacks, Military Exchange Global prepaid phone cards and more. As a military command with a retail mission, roughly two-thirds of AAFES earnings are paid to Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs. In the past 10 years, AAFES has contributed more $2.4 billion to military quality of life improvements.