Every year we hold our breath a little and wonder what nice-to-have military family programs are going to get cut. And every year we breathe a sigh of relief when the favorites stick around for another 365 days.
The YMCA Armed Forces membership for geographically dispersed military families is one of those. Available for activated Guard and Reserve families, deployed spouses who live far from a base (such as those who move home for deployment) and families stationed far from a base (such as during recruiting duty), the program provides a free YMCA membership or, in some places, a membership at a local fitness facility.
Free. Membership. What's not to love about that?
The program will cost the DoD this year about $5 million a year, and since its launch in 2008 has given out over 95.000 memberships, officials said, with about 10,000 of those in the last year. Last year they allocated $7 million. They said the cut reflects the program's actual use.
You might say that the military could spend that $5 million on something else. And while that's true, you could also say that our military members who aren't near bases, especially the Guard and Reservists, really can use a program like this during deployment. The YMCA was my once slice of sanity when my husband was last deployed, and I had the benefit of having many other resources at my local base. Guard and Reserve members aren't so fortunate.
Think you qualify? You'll want to call your local YMCA or gym to find out if it's one of the 1,500 YMCAs and more than 1,600 private fitness facilities that is participating. In the past participating locations have been listed on their website, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. If your location is participating, fill out this form and - boom - enjoy.