Welcome to the New Year. I trust you are being vigilant about your resolutions, making this the best year ever.
Here is some good news for you to savor, making your year even better. Not only do you have numerous V.A. benefits available to you, but you now have online shopping privileges at military exchanges. Yep, last Veterans Day a change was made, and you can now shop ONLINE at those stores.
All honorably discharged veterans now qualify for membership. Go to VetVerify.org to verify your veteran status and sign up for an account. Its web page has the information you need to verify your veteran status and how to sign up for an account.
Here is what they say:
“On behalf of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, Coast Guard Exchange, Marine Corps Exchange and Navy Exchange Service Command, we are excited to announce that the online exchanges will once again serve honorably discharged Veterans of all United States Armed Forces. This lifelong benefit allows you to shop online at any and all of the exchanges. Thank you for your service.”
The evolution of post exchanges goes back to 1880 when disciplinary problems were prevalent at “disreputable places of amusement” in towns near military bases. Col. Henry A. Morrow established a “canteen” at Vancouver Barracks for troops so they could remain on base for recreational purposes. 1882 brought an order from the Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln, that canteens be referred to as “Post Exchanges” to differentiate them from canteens of foreign armies where alleged immoral and bawdy behavior occurred. General Orders No. 46 issued by The War Department in 1895 directed commanders to establish a Post Exchange “wherever practical” at every post.
The Army Exchange Service was established in 1941, and responsibility to serve the Air Force was created in 1947. The Exchange expanded throughout the years to have 26 brick and mortar stores in the U.S., and operates more than 2,700 facilities, including main stores, convenience stores, military clothing stores and theaters, across 49 U.S. states and 34 countries, according to information on the AAFES web page. Since 2012, civilian leadership took the helm and made improvements to its website and offered a broader assortment of “industry-leading” merchandise.
After establishing an account, you can apply for the Military Star Card, which is a credit card exclusively for use at the exchange. Your purchases are tax free. The online benefit also applies to active-duty, Guard, reservists, medical retirees, retirees, Gold Star widows, veterans 100 percent disabled due to service, Medal of Honor recipients and all of their respective dependents. Veterans in these categories also have access to the brick and mortar stores, as well as the commissary. All tax free of course, and you can use your Star Card for purchases.
Just a reminder of a couple of other benefits you have are the G.I. Bill and the V.A. Home Loan. The G.I. Bill is used to help pay for college and other educational programs. The home loan is available for a second use. If you have already used it, you can apply again if the first loan has been paid off.
There are a lot of benefits available to veterans, but the most important is the pride of service. You do not apply for this. It is earned. Knowing that you did your duty holds us in high esteem in society. There are some who disrespect our patriotism, but when they take a knee, we know that we defended their right to do so. When we take a knee, it is to help our fallen comrades.
Be sure to check out all of the benefits available to you because you earned them. Benefits are available on the V.A. home page. You can confirm your veteran status at a local V.A. office.
Jack Evensizer is a resident of Dalton Gardens.