Badges of Honor Celebrate Military Connections, Create Bonds With Shoppers

Claudia Cristina Leon, the shoe department supervisor at the Fort Belvoir Exchange, who has been with the Exchange for more than three years, wears a badge that tells customers and teammates that she’s an Army spouse.

For Claudia Cristina Leon, the shoe department supervisor at the Fort Belvoir Exchange, being an Army spouse is an adventure.

“You move around, you meet a lot of new people,” said Leon, whose husband Francisco recently retired after 22 years of service. “Every time you move, it’s a new start.”

Claudia Cristina Leon, the shoe department supervisor at the Fort Belvoir Exchange, wears a Badge of Honor that tells customers and teammates that she’s an Army spouse.

Under the Exchange’s new optional Badges of Honor program, Leon, who has been with the Exchange for more than three years, wears a badge that tells customers and teammates that she’s an Army spouse.

“It makes me very proud,” said Leon, who has two adult daughters. “I love my husband, so it makes me very proud.”

Launched at Exchange stores in 2021, the badges celebrate Exchange associates’ connections to those they serve. On Feb. 22, the second phase of the project began, with a rollout to food associates. A third phase, for services and non-field associates, is planned for the second quarter of 2022.

“Some of the shoppers don’t always understand or know that we are part of the military,” said Michelle Buck, IT Services Portfolio manager, who was part of a group called Exchange Guardians that founded the program during the 2019 Executive Leadership Development program. (ELDP). “We came up with Badges of Honor to allow our associates who have a direct military tie to proudly wear that connection.”

Marines Figueroa, the Power Zone sales area manager at the Fort Buchanan PX,  l pays tribute daily to her Vietnam Veteran father by wearing a Badge of Honor that says “Army daughter.”

These associates include Marines Figueroa, the Power Zone sales area manager at the Fort Buchanan PX, who is a proud Army daughter. As a military brat, she learned discipline, service to others, problem solving and going the extra mile. Figueroa pays tribute daily to the Vietnam Veteran father who taught her those values by wearing a tag that says “Army daughter”

“Marines demonstrates these characteristics in all she does when she serves our heroes here at Fort Buchanan,” says Thea Sarver, Fort Buchanan general manager, who was also part of the team that founded Badges of Honor. “She is always being commended for being helpful and solving any issues that come her way.”

Once the ELDP ended, the Exchange Guardians team worked with Vanessa Hurguy, a program specialist in Store Operations, to implement the Badges of Honor. Together, they approached Teresa Green, manager of the nameplate plant at Fort Knox, whose team designed a 1-by-2-inch badge with the Exchange logo and room for an associate’s military connection.

“More than 6,000 badges have been ordered so far,” Green said. The program will continue to evolve, including the possibility of virtual badges, such as one included in email signatures for associates who don’t typically wear name tags.

“Wearing the Badge of Honor shows my patriotism to our country, and I am very prideful of that,” said Portia Gordon, a Fort Bragg North Post main store Operations Squad associate who wears an Army Veteran badge. 

Associate and customer feedback have been positive.

“Wearing the Badge of Honor shows my patriotism to our country, and I am very prideful of that,” said Portia Gordon, a Fort Bragg North Post main store Operations Squad associate who wears an Army Veteran badge. “While on the sales floor, I have been stopped and thanked for my service. It makes me smile each time.”

Sarver, whose store is in Puerto Rico, says the badges are a hit there.

“Puerto Rico is a prideful nation,” Sarver said. “Associates are very proud of their service here. We have more than 350,000 retirees on the island. Many of the associates are either related to someone in the service or are active duty themselves. And customers love the badges. For some, it’s opened up conversations with associates, with shoppers asking questions such as ‘Where have you lived?’ About 60% of the associates are wearing the badges.”

The badges not only help associates bond with the Warfighters who shop at the Exchange and their families—they also build connections among store teams.

“Associates aren’t always aware of their teammates’ prior experiences,” Buck said. “The new program now enables an opportunity for associates to make the connection, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had a daughter in the Army!’ or ‘I was unaware that you were former military!’ It creates a way to forge a bond between our associates as well.”

Wearing a Badge of Honor? Tell us What it Means to You.

If you’re wearing a Badge of Honor, send us a photo and a sentence saying what it means to you to [email protected] and [email protected] We’ll include it in a special Flickr album. Please send photos actual size as attachments (not in the body of the email) and make sure the Badge of Honor is visible in the photo.

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