TINKER AIR FORCE BASE – Eight years ago, retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Larry Van Schuyver started selling military-themed T-shirts and memorabilia at the Tinker Air Force Base Exchange mall.
Since then, the Iraq War Veteran and Purple Heart recipient has used the proceeds from his business, Sittin’ Pretty USA, to help thousands of disabled Veterans throughout Oklahoma—from helping pay bills to renovating home bathrooms for greater accessibility.
Van Schuyver’s dedication to Veterans exemplifies the Exchange’s core value of family serving family. Exchange Director/CEO Tom Shull honored Van Schuyver during a visit to the Tinker Exchange on Jan. 4, presenting him with a challenge coin.
At the Exchange, 85 percent of associates have a connection to the military. The Exchange offers career opportunities for spouses, Veterans and Wounded Warriors (the Exchange has hired 1,000 Wounded Warriors since 2010—second only to the Army).
“The Exchange is my family,” Van Schuyver said. “Tom has the same love for Veterans that I do, and he and I are going to be brothers forever. His love for Veterans shows in the people they hire.”
Known to the Tinker community simply as “Master Chief,” the 64-year-old Van Schuyver designs his own T-shirts. All labor, from printing shirts to running the booth, is done voluntarily by fellow disabled Veterans in the Oklahoma City area.
All of his business’ earnings are used to help disabled Veterans, Van Schuyver said. He and his volunteers have built wheelchair ramps, paid for car repairs, repaired damaged roofs and more. During the holidays, he and his team donated nearly 320 meal baskets to Veteran families in need.
Van Schuyver said his business is successful—and his outreach to Veterans possible—thanks to the support of management at the Tinker Exchange, including General Manager Brenda Hyland, Service Business Manager Angie Gray and Services Operations Assistant Dan Shibe.
“Chief Larry is a treasure,” Hyland said. “His dedication to the Veteran community is truly remarkable, and we are honored to have him as a member of our Exchange family.”
Van Schuyver enlisted in the Navy in 1973. He transitioned to reserve in 1983 and was called back to active duty shortly after 9/11. He received a Purple Heart in 2005 after suffering a traumatic brain injury in Iraq. In 2009, during his second deployment to the country, he was in the path of an explosion, resulting in the placement of a metal rod between his knee and ankle.
His refusal to let his injuries limit his aspirations lies at the core of his outreach to disabled Veterans, and he encourages them to rise above their circumstances.
Two booths down from Van Schuyver’s, Alan Taylor operates 2 Sisters & An Angel, selling blankets, sheets and military memorabilia. Taylor, also a disabled Navy Veteran, said Van Schuyver not only guided him through the process of applying for Veterans benefits but also showed him the ropes of working with the Exchange.
“He’s helped us emotionally, physically and mentally,” Taylor said. “He would give you the shirt off of his back.”
In 2014, Van Schuyver’s passion for Veterans led Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to appoint him to the Oklahoma Veterans Commission. As a commissioner, Van Schuyver works with military groups across the state of Oklahoma to help Veterans get their benefits.
Looking back on his whirlwind eight-year journey at the Exchange, Van Schuyver said he could not have imagined his business would touch so many lives—in 2017 alone, he said, Sittin’ Pretty USA gave $108,000 to help disabled Veterans, a feat he said would not have been possible without the support of the Tinker Exchange team.
“I say we’re the most successful broke company in America,” Van Schuyver said.
Family Serving Family: Retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer and Tinker Exchange concessionaire Larry Van Schuyver has used the proceeds from his business to help thousands of disabled Veterans throughout Oklahoma. Read more at http://bit.ly/2DR2nBU.
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Since 1895, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (Exchange) has gone where Soldiers, Airmen and their families go to improve the quality of their lives by providing valued goods and services at exclusive military pricing. As the 56th-largest retailer in the United States, Exchange earnings provided $2.4 billion in dividends to support military morale, welfare and recreation programs over the last 10 years. The Exchange is a non-appropriated fund entity of the Department of Defense and is directed by a Board of Directors. To find out more about the Exchange history and mission or to view recent press releases please visit our Web site at http://www.shopmyexchange.com or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ExchangePAO.
For more information or to schedule an interview with an Exchange representative please contact Conner Hammett, 214-312-2714 or firstname.lastname@example.org.