DALLAS – “A typical (military) family can easily spend $1,500 a year shipping shampoo, baby powder, bedding, phone cards, toothpaste and similar items (to Iraq and Afghanistan).” These are the disturbing findings of New York Congressman Vito Fossella, Jr.
Fossella, along with more than a 100 Congressional Representatives, has been taking a close look at the cost of military mail. His findings confirm what advocates of deployed troops have long known; mailing care packages to troops overseas is extremely expensive.
To combat prohibitive shipping fees, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service offers two initiatives that make it easy and affordable to support military families and troops.
The first effort is called “Gifts from the Homefront.” This program relies on more than 55 exchanges, filled with shampoo, baby powder, bedding and more, in and around Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. An efficient military logistics operation ensures these “PX/BX” operations are stocked with the health and beauty items, movies and comfort foods troops desire.
Service members can redeem “Gift from the Homefront” gift certificates at Tactical Exchanges throughout the Middle East for items priced the same, if not less, than family and friends would find in the United States.
“‘Gifts from the Homefront’ save the sender money and put the choice of what items the Soldier, Airman, Marine or Sailor want back into their hands,” said AAFES Chief of Corporate Communications Lt. Col. Debra Pressley. “Military men and women use the gift certificate just like cash to buy their favorite foods, DVDs and other comfort items.”
Reports from Iraq and Afghanistan indicate “Gifts from the Homefront” gift certificates, available at www.aafes.org or by calling 877-770-4438, are being redeemed for snacks, soft drinks and CDs. Because, all of these items have already been shipped to field Exchanges in Iraq and are available at stateside prices, gift certificates addressed to “any service member” are subject to a flat shipping charge of only $4.95 for orders of $5 to $5,000.
“For only $4.95 shipping anyone could send up to $5,000 worth of ‘Gifts from the Homefront,’” said Pressley. “At 65 cents a bar, that would be the equivalent of 7,692 bars of Dial soap.”
As Rep. Fossella understands, phone cards provide a critical link between the front lines and the home front. AAFES’ “Help Our Troops Call Home” program was created for this very reason.
The second initiative, called “Help Our Troops Call Home,” utilizes the Military Exchange Global Prepaid platform to provide phone cards designed for the unique needs of deployed troops. With rates as low as 19 cents a minute, Military Exchange Global Prepaid Phone cards, available in denominations ranging from $14.99 to $39, can provide more than two hours of talk time from any of 68 phone centers located throughout Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
Anyone who wants to support our troops through “Gifts from the Homefront” or “Help Our Troops Call Home” can log on to aafes.org to participate. Gifts certificates are also available toll free at 877-770-4438, phone cards can be sent by calling 800-527-2345. Both forms of support can be sent to an individual service member (designated by the purchaser) or distributed to “any service member” through the American Red Cross, Air Force Aid Society, Fisher House or USO.
“$1,500 is too much money for military families to pay just for shipping,” said Pressley. “Away from home and in a war zone, simple things like these gift certificates and phone cards make all the difference in a difficult environment and make life away from home just a little more bearable.”
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is a joint command of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, and is directed by a Board of Directors who is responsible to the Secretaries of the Army and the Air Force through the Service Chiefs of Staff. AAFES has the dual mission of providing authorized patrons with articles of merchandise and services and of generating non-appropriated fund earnings as a supplemental source of funding for military Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs. To find out more about AAFES' history and mission, please visit our web site at http://www.aafes.com/pa/default.asp