By DeCA Corporate Communications
Patrons can expect to see special promotions, contests and a lot of birthday flair as the Defense Commissary Agency and its industry partners kick off the 150th anniversary celebration of the modern commissary benefit.
“From now through the actual July 1 anniversary date, commissaries worldwide will highlight the long history of the commissary benefit and the great savings and value the benefit has brought to our military community since 1867,” said Tracie Russ, DeCA’s sales director.
DeCA is beginning the observance in February with kick-off banners placed at all stores worldwide. Over the next five months, other scheduled anniversary events and activities include the following:
- Limited edition, specially labeled products using nostalgic commissary photos and the 150th gold logo
- Celebrity endorsements at commissaries with in-store radio
- Beginning in March and ending July 31, commissaries will use their “Wall of Value” locations for the “150 Years of Value and Savings!,” directing shoppers to discounted promotional savings on products.
- Other events will be tied to the month of May for Military Appreciation Month and the worldwide Healthy Lifestyle Festivals in June. Patrons are encouraged to check their local store for details of specific anniversary events such as cake-cutting ceremonies.
The 150th anniversary observance ties back to the official beginning of the modern commissary benefit on July 1, 1867. It was on that date, two years following the Civil War, that enlisted men received the same privileges available to officers since 1825 – the right to purchase goods, “at cost price,” from their post’s subsistence department warehouses. These sales could take place at any post in the United States or its territories, wherever the local commander deemed them necessary, regardless of location.
As years passed, retirees, spouses and families also became eligible shoppers. The commissaries mirrored changes and progress in the civilian retail grocery industry, from self-service to product proliferation. As the nation sent its armed forces overseas, commissaries followed: Cuba, the Philippines, China, and Panama all had U.S. military commissaries before 1905.
Surcharges came and went. During the World Wars, commissaries spread all over the globe, from Europe and the Middle East to the Far East and even South America.
The Navy and Marine Corps opened their first commissaries in 1909-1910, and when the Air Force came into being in 1947, it inherited commissaries at Army Air Force bases and airfields.
For many years, the posts and bases had plenty of leeway in running their stores. After World War II, the services began taking firmer control of their commissaries, professionalizing the staffs and creating career paths for military and civilian employees alike. By the 1980s, the four major services each had their own commissary system. DeCA was begun in 1991 to create cost savings and store uniformity, bringing together all the stores of the four services.
“At DeCA we want to celebrate our military members and their families for all they do to serve this nation,” Russ said. “We may be throwing the party, but the celebration belongs to our patrons.”