DALLAS – When thousands of miles separate troops in a war zone from families and friends, participating in the holidays is often relegated to a card and a phone call. The Army & Air Force Exchange Service is bridging the gap between troops and those they love with a gift giving program specifically designed to serve deployed troops.
“Operation Forward Santa” lets deployed service members shop for friends and family back home through free fliers distributed throughout Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Featured merchandise focuses on holiday gift ideas, such as food, flowers, jewelry and toys, with a majority of the items available at special promotional prices exclusively for deployed troops.
Deployed service members have several ways to participate in Operation Forward Santa. They can fill out a flier and return the form to any of more than 50 Exchanges in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, where a sales associate will process their order. Troops can also log on to www.aafes.com or call a dedicated “personal shopper” at 214-583-5614 for live individual shopping assistance.
“Reaching out to loved ones during the holidays is important, especially for deployed service members,” said AAFES Vice President of Direct Marketing, Angela Borck. “Operation Forward Santa makes it easier for troops to find what they want for friends and family supporting them back home.”
AAFES launched “Operation Forward Santa” in Fall 2003. The program initially targeted troops deployed in remote locations of Southwest Asia who did not have ready access to phones or the internet. While many troops now do have regular access to electronic communication, Operation Forward Santa still offers benefits such as free gift wrapping on most items, with packages labeled “DO NOT OPEN ‘TIL DECEMBER 25.”
Last year, more than 1,000 “Operation Forward Santa” orders with nearly 1,500 gifts made the holidays a little brighter for military families celebrating the holidays far away from their Soldier or Airman.