Brussels Exchange Shift Supervisor Recognized as DoD Outstanding Employee with Disability

DALLAS – For shift supervisor Joy Atkinson, “family serving family” is a way of life, making her invaluable to her teammates at the Brussels Exchange retail store, where she has worked for more than a year.

Atkinson’s inspirational spirit has earned her the Outstanding Department of Defense Employee with a Disability Award. She was honored at a ceremony at the Pentagon Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4.

“Joy makes the experience of visiting the Brussels Exchange store a daily highlight for our community members,” said Benelux-Brussels Deputy Garrison Manager Raymond Myers. “She puts a smile on everyone’s face.”

A combat Veteran of the United States Army, Atkinson has served her country with passion and valor for more than 14 years. She was assigned to a Military Police unit in the Netherlands in 1985, and was deployed to Panama during Operation Just Cause in December 1989. For the latter, Atkinson was one of the first women officially acknowledged to have been involved in direct combat operations.

Described as outgoing, cheerful, and happy, Atkinson was surprised to be considered for the award, but says, despite deep emotional scars sustained in service to our country, she is ready to step forward and speak openly about invisible wounds.

“I want people to realize that mental illnesses are just like other illnesses,” said Atkinson. “I hope that my receiving this award will help to lessen the stigma around invisible illnesses like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

From her work at the Army & Air Force Exchange Service to the volunteer work she does with marginalized groups, Atkinson never says no when someone asks for help. She joined the Brussels Childbirth Trust in 2006, a volunteer organization that supports English-speaking families in Belgium.

“I know what it’s like to not know the culture or speak the language,” Atkinson said. “I think it’s important to step up and use my voice to enable other young Soldiers, military spouses and ex-pats to take advantage of the fantastic opportunities offered to them in Brussels.”

In addition, Atkinson is actively involved in a group that provides support to victims of domestic violence, even going so far as to travel to other countries to personally pick up at-risk mothers and children. When the sister of a fellow Exchange associate was gravely injured during the Brussels Airport terrorist attack, Atkinson raised money on social media for her colleague’s family.

“If you looked up ‘family serving family’ in the dictionary, Joy’s picture would be there,” said Robin Boylan, General Manager of the Spangdahlem Consolidated Exchange. “Brussels is such a small community. Our store is a hub for that community and she is the center of that hub.”

According to Boylan, Atkinson always provides exceptional service to all members of the Brussels community.

“She brightens every room she enters and leaves it better than she found it,” Boylan said. “She is a true inspiration for us all and a reminder of what is achievable with an indomitable spirit.”

The Exchange is dedicated to a diverse, inclusive workforce. Exchange managers partner with Human Resources to recruit, retain and advance people with targeted disabilities. Non-competitive hiring for entry-level positions, providing reasonable accommodations, active community outreach and retaining interns from the Workforce Recruitment Program are all tools available to Exchange managers in hiring those with disabilities.

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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. The Exchange is the 61st-largest retailer in the United States. Its 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. The Exchange is a 50th Anniversary Vietnam War Commemorative Partner, planning and conducting events and activities that recognize the service, valor and sacrifice of Vietnam Veterans and their families in conjunction with the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration. To find out more about the Exchange history and mission or to view recent press releases please visit our website at http://www.shopmyexchange.com or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ExchangePAO.

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Media Notes:

For more information or to schedule an interview with an Exchange representative please contact Alexandra Pirkle, 214-312-2143 or pirkleac@aafes.com.

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