Don Collins (left), a retired Marine Master Sgt. and combat photographer, stands with Sgt. Maj. Lemakius Gardner (right), senior enlisted advisor for Exchange Europe/Southwest Asia/Africa Region after receiving a challenge coin in honor of Veterans Day Nov. 11 at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Exchange at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

On Veterans Day, Exchange Salutes Heroes With Special Challenge Coin

Army & Air Force Exchange Service stores around the world honored our Nation’s heroes on Veterans Day with a challenge coin giveaway.

The giveaway was part of the second annual In Recognition Of military resale salute to those who have served. Veterans were eligible to receive coins at all military exchanges and commissaries in a united sign of appreciation for Warfighters’ selfless sacrifices.

Don Collins, a retired Marine Master Sergeant  and combat photographer, stands with Sgt. Maj. Lemakius Gardner (right), senior enlisted advisor for Exchange Europe/Southwest Asia/Africa Region after receiving a challenge coin in honor of Veterans Day, Nov. 11 at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Exchange at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

At the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center Exchange at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Sgt. Maj. Lemakius Gardner, senior enlisted advisor of the Exchange’s Europe/Southwest Asia Region, handed out the coins and personally thanked Veterans.

Retired Lt. Col. Herman Celosse, who served with the 299th Combat Engineer Battalion, appreciated the event.

“Serving in the United States Army was an honor,” Celosse said. “I immigrated from the Netherlands and wanted to pay back the United States for the freedoms I received being a U.S. citizen.”

Retired Marine Master Sgt. Don Collins, who served as combat photographer, was happy to receive the coin while reflecting on his career.

“There’s no other job like it,” Collins said. “Serving my country gave me the self-confidence I needed to succeed in life.”

Gardner also honored two KMCC Exchange associates—Army Veterans who joined the Exchange to continue their life of service. Sales and Merchandise Manager Kris Edkin and Operations Manager Neal Purtee were surprised by the recognition.

“It’s about supporting freedom,” Edkin said. “I wanted to continue serving, so I joined the Exchange and have been doing so for over 20 years.”

At Camp Foster on Okinawa, Veterans gathered Nov. 10 to celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday and were looking forward to returning to receive their challenge coin on Veterans Day.

Lt. Col. Michael Kovalchek, Exchange Pacific Region commander, thanks Veterans from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #9723 for their military contribution during a coin presentation ceremony at Camp Foster’s Exchange main store. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark A. Kauffman)

Retired Gunnery Sgt. John Wilson, who served for 21 years, appreciated the Exchange for making the Marine Corps birthday and Veterans Day extra special.

“AAFES helps the families a lot and supplies them with everything they need for their homes, especially when you serve or live overseas,” Wilson said. “They really provide that needed peace of mind when we are away from home and fighting for our country.”

Show us your celebration!

Send us your photos! Share photos of your store’s In Recognition Of challenge coin giveaway for our Flickr album. Send high-res jpegs to [email protected] and [email protected], and we will include them for all to see.

Sgt. 1st Class Taresha Hill and Staff Sgt. Mark Kauffman contributed to this report.

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