Making Holidays Special Overseas

Misawa Main Store associates (left) Supervisory Sales Clerk Noriko Nomura and (right) Sales Clerk Satomi Mantoku bring holiday cheer to customers during a special event.

Making Holidays Special Overseas: Pacific Region

Military members and their families face many challenges during their time in service. One of those is being stationed in a foreign country during the holidays, more so when that country may not share the same holiday traditions they are accustomed to stateside.

Pacific Region Senior Vice President Karin Duncan and her team work hard during the holidays to not only bring service members and their families the merchandise and tastes of home they desire, but to also create events that bring the holidays home for those stationed overseas.

We are truly proud to be a part of this festive event that will surely warm hearts…

—Shinobu Matsui, General Manager Yokota Exchange

This year, the biggest event of the season was the grand opening of the Camp Humphreys Exchange in South Korea.

“Associates across the Pacific Region as well as associates in CONUS regions, Merchandising, Services, Food and Fuel, Real Estate, IT, Logistics, Human Resources and Loss Prevention have been in overdrive, exceeding expectations to get one of the largest Exchange complexes into full operation before the holiday season,” Duncan said. “We opened our doors Nov. 20, in time for the Black Friday shopping weekend. The Pacific Exchanges will give away (in total) $15,000 in gift cards and more than $20,000 in prizes throughout the holiday season to ease the burden of holiday shopping on our military family.”

Pacific Exchanges support community tree lighting ceremonies, provide entertainment from local schools and bands, plus coordinate free gift wrapping. They also set up Angel Trees, bake sales and special shopping events.

Okinawa hosts one such event— a special kids shopping night.

“The Junior ROTC cadets from Kadena High School work with us on this event,” said Stephen Shaw, Kadena main store manager. “The cadets meet the children at the front of the store and receive money from the parent or guardian to pay for the gifts, and they agree upon a return time.”

This event allows children to purchase something special for those parents whose spouses are deployed and already must spend the holidays without their significant others.

“It’s a very emotional event. We’ve had moms come back after Christmas in tears, thanking us for the opportunity to make their holiday a little less difficult,” said Brian Sonntag, general manager.

The Pacific Exchanges are also mindful of single Soldiers stationed overseas.

“This can be a sad and lonely time for single Soldiers, so the Camp Carroll and Camp Walker Exchanges welcome them for special events,” Sonntag said.

Soldiers can participate in the “Holiday Greetings Home” event, where they can record a holiday greeting video or holiday photo card to send back home. Soldiers can also show off their gaming skills at Xbox game events. Winners of these events will receive Exchange gift cards, food and theater coupons.

Pacific troops will also enjoy the latest Star Wars film, thanks to the Yokota East Theater, which will offer two free showings of “The Last Jedi.”

“We are truly proud to be a part of this festive event that will surely warm the hearts of our valued patrons during this holiday season,” said Shinobu Matsui, general manager.

Making Holidays Special Overseas: Europe/Southwest Asia Region

The Christmas market at Ramstein AB mall.

Europe/Southwest (SW) Asia Region Senior Vice President Jason Rosenberg and his team are ramping up Family Serving Family spirit to bring the holidays to their military shoppers wherever they are stationed.

“Our team provides a taste of home to our military, DoD civilians and all family members away from home in Europe and at the ‘tip of the spear’ in SW Asia and Eastern Europe while deployed,” Rosenberg said. “We have a lineup of exciting events scheduled in our Europe facilities so those stationed overseas benefit from the same sales promotions and rush of Christmas shopping as if they were in the States.”

“Our team provides a taste of home to our military, DoD civilians and all family members away from home in Europe and at the ‘tip of the spear’ in SW Asia and Eastern Europe while deployed.”

—Jason Rosenberg Europe/Southwest Asia Region senior vice president

For Black Friday weekend and every week in the buildup to Christmas, the Europe Exchanges promote the same specials and events as stateside Exchanges so overseas customers don’t miss out.

“The Europe region will make customers’ experiences memorable by providing special European buys of traditional Christmas treats and decorations from Germany, Italy and the U.K.,” Rosenberg said.   

“We send German Christmas cakes and chocolates to our contingency locations in SW Asia and Eastern Europe for troops to enjoy. Our services teams worked hard to book exciting European vendors in our malls, showcasing European crafts and items our customers cannot get anywhere but here,” Rosenberg said.  “We host a traditional German Christmas market for an entire month at our Ramstein Kaiserslautern Military Community Center Mall with the booths selling German food and Christmas items.”

In SW Asia, the Europe region team along with Services, Food and Fuel and the Walt Disney Company will spread additional holiday cheer to the troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and UAE by partnering with Disney for the third year in a row to premier the new Star Wars movie, “The Last Jedi,” in contingency locations.  “Our wonderful partners at Disney have supported this initiative that has meant so much to the troops for the past two years, and this year promises to be an equally big event,” Rosenberg said.

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