FORT SILL, Okla., Dec. 10, 2020 -- “Yeah, right.”Not the reaction one might expect coming from someone whose in-hand sweepstakes game piece revealed a prize package consisting of a $10,000 gift card and subsequent shopping spree.This particular sweepstakes had been but one event scheduled to mark the year-long celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), said Loyd Brumfield, AAFES headquarters public relations specialist in Dallas.The celebration “started in July, and our celebration will continue through July 2021,” he said.Winning game pieces for this particular sweepstakes were affixed to “Subway Sip. Rip. Ultimate Trip” beverage cups and distributed at random to AAFES stores worldwide, according to Brumfield.Shala Morita, an 8th-grade special education teacher at MacArthur Middle School (MMS)in Lawton and an Army veteran, sat in her car staring in disbelief at that game piece.“To be honest,” Shala admitted, “I almost didn’t rip it off and look at it, because I’ve never won anything before in my life.”Finding herself in between errands and pressed for time as she walked out of the Fort Sill main exchange that October day, she hurriedly picked up lunch at the Subway restaurant located in the food court.With a nod to elevated COVID-19 precautions adherence, she gathered up her meal and retreated to the isolation of her car in the exchange parking lot, where she enjoyed her lunch.Of her game piece, Shala kept thinking, “This can’t be real.”She didn’t say anything to her husband of 21 years, Richard, or show him her winning game piece until after it had been officially verified by AAFES weeks later.Truth be told, she submitted her information to AAFES (all the while completely unaware of the significance of the date) on the final day she could do so and still be awarded the prize package.Having come in just under the wire, Shala had indeed won a $10,000 shopping spree.She was honored at the Fort Sill main exchange Dec. 5 with a brief yet festive formal presentation ceremony, resplendent with green and yellow Subway balloons and banners and held in the food court directly in front of the Subway restaurant.Almost inaudibly, Shala sighed and admitted at ceremony’s end, “I am not a shopper. I loathe shopping.“God must be laughing at me for finally winning something,” she said, smiling.The veracity of her confession was backed up by her husband and others who know her well.Retired from the Army after 20 years, Richard has been a training supervisor with 30th Air Defense Artillery brigade for 10 years.When asked what his reaction had been when he first learned of his wife’s $10,000 sweepstakes prize, Richard said it seemed then —and still seems — surreal.“We couldn’t believe that it was true, that this is happening to us,” he said.“This is a blessing, especially around this time of year,” Richard continued. “We are thinking that we can get things now for other people who are more deserving.”Accompanied by several Fort Sill exchange managers and greeted inside the main store by various department supervisors, each at the ready to ease her apprehensions and make her experience enjoyable, Shala shopped by herself, as the main exchange had not yet opened its doors for business.Her $10,000 gift card could not have come at a more opportune time of year.The Moritas have two teenage sons, Richart, 19, and Sethe, 17.Besides Christmas gifting, husband Richard’s birthday is New Year’s Eve, both sons will celebrate their birthdays in January, and Shala’s birthday falls in early February, followed not long after by Valentine’s Day.In addition to gifts for others, Shala sought out an item or two for herself, with her first in-store destination being ladies shoes.Before her career move to MMS in Lawton, Shala taught pre-K through high school students in Central High, a small rural town east of Lawton which — according to the last census — enjoys a population of just under 1,200. The dress code for teachers in this small country town allowed Shala to wear nice jeans with tall boots to school.Changing not only school districts but dress codes upon her move to MMS, she felt a pair of short boots would better complement the dress slacks she wears in her classroom these days. She found just the pair during her AAFES shopping spree.Next, Shala paused at the jewelry counter and asked to see a necklace that caught her eye.As she gently caressed the necklace, three AAFES employees who were delighted at her good fortune sidled up to the counter, one by one, and joined forces alongside Patricia Stewart, the jewelry supervisor.To the dismay of the four employees, ladies all, after Shala decided she would add the necklace to her purchases, she abruptly reversed her decision upon hearing its cost.As Shala turned to steer her cart in another direction, Stewart’s calm revelation that the modestly priced necklace could be had for 20 percent off proved the selling point.Shala hesitated briefly, but then asked that it be added to her cart. The AAFES employees cheered.Upon shopping spree’s end, she asked Hardlines Supervisor Kanicha Hamilton and Power Zone Manager Nancy Smith at the register that she not be told the sum total of her purchases. It was agreed that she would instead be told how many AAFES gift cards she would surrender.Indeed, when it was time to arrive at the total dollar amount of her purchases, Hamilton let Shala know the total key was about to be struck, and Shala turned away, so as not to see the dollar amount.The 50-year-old Shala was born in Pierre, South Dakota, grew up in Peoria, Illinois, and moved to Norman, Oklahoma, when her parents divorced.Initially enlisting in the Oklahoma Army National Guard as a private first class, Shala enrolled at the University of Oklahoma and its Army ROTC program.She graduated OU with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and was commissioned an Army officer. Branched air defense artillery, she spent her entire three-year military service obligation assigned to units at Fort Bliss, Texas.At Bliss, she graduated from the ADA Officer Basic Course before being assigned to a unit on post where she served as a Patriot launcher platoon leader and then as a fire control platoon leader before assuming the duties of battery executive officer.Within a month of arriving at her first duty assignment, the unit deployed to the Middle East.She left the military on the promotion list to captain, and had further distinguished herself by earning Fort Bliss’s Iron Soldier award, as perhaps (she was informed at the time) the first female ADA officer to be so honored.Her military service totaled about five years.