More than 85 percent of the Exchange’s workforce is connected in some way to the military, including associates who proudly wore the uniform and served the Nation with honor.
For the second straight year, the Exchange is partnering with the Lockheed-Martin Armed Forces Bowl to highlight 15 Veteran associates as part of the Wall of Heroes project during the game Dec. 22 in Fort Worth.
In honor of Veterans Day, here are observations from six of those associates, whose pictures and stories will appear on the Wall of Heroes.
“Veterans Day is a day to honor those who have served to protect our Nation with a portion of their lives—some giving all,” said Michael J. Fox, a mail server administrator in the IT Directorate at HQ. “While I appreciate being honored, I more enjoy the opportunity to honor others, especially those, like Vietnam Vets, who did not receive the honor they deserved in the past.”
Feeding a ‘passion’
But Veterans Day also means something else to Fox, who served from 1981-89 in the Navy: “It feeds a passion underlying my being at the Exchange. Serving those who serve, or have served, is more than a slogan or motto, it touches something deep within me.”
Tammar Tracey, store manager at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, said Veterans Day means reflecting on her family’s history of serving the Nation. Her father retired after 27 years in the Air Force; her brother served eight years as an officer in the Air Force; and three uncles served during the Vietnam War. She served for two years in the Army.
“Veterans Day also means remembering those who lost their lives in combat, honoring military spouses who held families together while the warfighter was deployed and acknowledging those children who had to constantly adjust to the military service parent being gone,” said Tracey, who served in the Army from 1985-87. “We all contributed to our nation regardless of the role.”
Sense of camaraderie
She said that a sense of camaraderie develops between Veterans and never dissipates.
“It’s a common experience that no matter where you are and the topic of military service comes up, Veterans will jump into deep conversation and share their testimonies of service to our Nation,” Tracey said. “Regardless of the war in which you served, it’s still a shared dedication that no one can take away from you.”
Robert DeSoto, sales area manager at JB San Antonio-Randolph, said the words, “honor,” “courage” and “commitment” come to mind on Veterans Day. The word “service” holds special meaning.
“When a person thanks Veterans for their service, it is always appreciated, but unfortunately they can’t begin to fathom what that service truly means unless they served themselves,” said DeSoto, a Marine from 2008 to 2013. “As an Infantry Marine, like I was, service is the willingness to sacrifice yourself, without hesitation, to protect and defend our Nation, to put aside your own comfort and well-being for the greater good, to be tenacious and have the fortitude to fight at the tip of the spear.”
‘Strong sense of belonging’
To Chuck Hatton, print art director at HQ, Veterans Day became a source of pride after he served for 22 years in the Air Force
“Holding a career as a military member, I feel a strong sense of belonging and shared common core values with other military members who you might not see in someone who’s never served,” Hatton said. “The first three words that pop into my mind when I hear ‘Veterans Day” are ‘dedication,’ ‘belonging’ and ‘pride.’”
Josh Samuels, a Hardlines buyer who served in the Army from 2003 to 2008, said he would like more focus on issues that follow Veterans after they have returned from deployment or separated from the service. Veterans Day should continue “to be a day of celebration, but also engaging the public in participating in and improving issues, such as combating suicide and improving Veteran access for physical and mental health treatment.”
Wearing Veteran label proudly
Steve Groll, vice president in the Inspector General’s office at HQ, said he now wears the “Veteran label” proudly.
“It always felt a little strange to be thanked by others for something I was so honored to do when I served in the Air Force,” said Groll, who served from 1992 to 2013. “The basic theme of honoring those who have served and are currently serving is the same, but now I look back on my service with a sense of accomplishment for unique things I was able to do with my fellow brothers and sisters in arms.
“Veterans Day puts things into perspective for me a bit more now.”