If you don't live near a military base during deployment - or are stationed far away from one - you could get a free YMCA membership for your family.
That's because a program that gives free YMCA memberships to deployed military families who do not live near a military installation has been extended until March of next year, DoD announced this week.
The program lets those families, most of whom are Guard or Reserve members, apply for a free membership to their local participating YMCA. Spouses who have decided to move back home during deployment can also use it, as can families assigned to a community-based warrior transition unit (WTU) and active duty families assigned to an independent duty location (example: recruiting duty).
While the application process is a tiny bit different for some of the categories above (you can go here to follow the one that applies to you), here are some general rules of thumb:
- You must present deployment orders for longer than six months (except WTU and Independent Duty folks).
- You have to use the membership eight different days each month in order to be eligible to renew it (except Independent Duty).
- Not every YMCA participiates in the program, so you should go here to make sure the one near you does.
- For Independent Duty folks, you have to live at least 10 miles away from the nearest military base with free fitness programs.
Back in The Day (think: 2009), the program also included families who were located near one of the newly formed joint bases. Out at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, for example, where everyone and their mom was dealing with a deployment, the YMCA permitted enrollment once every six or so months, and once the spots were filled that was it. But it didn't take that part of the program long to be slashed thanks to budget cuts.
But thanks to the continuing subsidy, the bulk of the program is back for another year. And since studies show that staying physically active is an important and effective way to manage stress, this can be a great tool for those who are dealing with the weight of deployment. Even if you don't live near a military base with free services, this YMCA program leaves you with no excuses.