Winners have MILITARY STAR accounts paid in full

DALLAS — The Army & Air Force Exchange Service made wishes come true for three grand-prize winners of the worldwide MILITARY STAR Your Holiday Bill Is On Us sweepstakes — and for one retiree, the prize was a way of saying “thank  you” for sacrifices made decades ago.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. James Jones, retired Master Sgt. Catherine Lawrence and Texas Army National Guard Sgt. Clayton Anders were grand-prize winners out of 4.7 million entries worldwide. The winners, who bought holiday gifts at the Exchange, all had their MILITARY STAR accounts paid in full.

“These three grand-prize winners prove real heroes win our sweepstakes,” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Sean Applegate, Exchange senior enlisted advisor. “The Exchange is honored to pay it forward to these individuals, and we’re looking forward to bringing this sweepstakes back for 2016.”

The prize presentation to Jones, who served at Ubon Air Base, Thailand, during the Vietnam War, was especially poignant.

“So few who served during this time were thanked for their sacrifices when they returned home,” said Tom Shull, Exchange Director/CEO, during the presentation to Jones at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. “It’s so important to honor his service. What he did so many years ago for all of us is a true sacrifice.”

At the end of the presentation, Jones ripped an oversize statement, symbolizing his $2,339 bill wiped clean. Because his bill was less than the $2,500 minimum prize, he also received a statement credit.

“When I first heard I’d won, I thought it was a hoax,” Jones said, who lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. “It was a wonderful surprise. Having this bill paid does take a load off my mind.”

Lawrence, too, had her mind eased by having her $3,305.70 balance paid off during a presentation at McConnell AFB, Kansas. She opened her MILITARY STAR card in November and used her card at to buy Christmas gifts for her teenage son and nieces. She also splurged on herself — buying a 55-inch TV she had been wanting for years.

“I have to stretch my budget,” Lawrence said, whose 23-year military career ended when she suffered permanent nerve damage after shattering two vertebrae in her neck while exercising to prepare for deployment. “I’m a single mom, and I take care of my disabled dog, too. Having this bill paid means less stress on me, especially since I’m disabled.”

For Anders, who serves in the Texas Army National Guard, having his $3,735 MILITARY STAR account wiped clean has brought his family peace of mind, too. He used his card over the holidays at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base Exchange, Texas, in part to buy gifts for his teenage daughters. Anders was honored during a presentation at Exchange Headquarters in Dallas.

“Winning this prize means my family will be better prepared when I deploy to Kuwait next year,” Anders said, who serves with D Co. 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion.

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