MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Lending a helping hand is nothing new to the men and women of our armed forces, so when it comes time, the Armed Services YMCA extends a helping hand to wounded service members and their families through the Wounded Comrades Fund.
The fund was designed in January to assist wounded service members and their families with financial needs such as travel, food and lodging expenses. The fund came about after the ASYMCA directors met with donors and military advisors regarding the needs of service members stationed here, said Anita Neu-Fultz, ASYMCA executive director.
“I was a board member, and people came to us looking to donate money to wounded Marines, sailors and family members,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Jim Ricker, Manpower Operations, who helped start the program. “The board assisted in making sure the fund was done right legally.”
The ASYMCA and Wounded Comrades Fund is a non-profit organization available on a case-by-case basis. Service members stationed here can have their case reviewed by the ASYMCA Twentynine Palms Branch, Board of Management. The ASYMCA prefers that the referrals come through the unit’s commanding officer for legitimacy, said Neu-Fultz.
The fund receives money through donors and fundraising, she continued. Donations come from organizations such as American Friends of our Armed Forces and the Partner Member Program. They are also received by private and anonymous donors by contacting ASYMCA. The fundraising events include events such as the Soap Box Derby or The Red, White and Blue sponsored by Polo America.
“Donations are American citizens’ way of saying ‘thank you’ to the young men and women who are in uniform today,” said Ricker.
“The fund has currently helped 23 service members and their families at no cost to them with financial expenses,” said Neu-Fultz.
In one case, the Marine Corps transported injured Marines who were at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine’s memorial service here. They didn’t have the money for their families to come with them and that’s where the Wounded Comrades Fund came into play. The fund was able to pay for those expenses, said Neu-Fultz.
In another case, a Marine who sustained severe injuries while serving in Iraq, paid out-of-pocket to attend that same memorial service. The Wounded Comrades Fund paid the travel expenses for the Marine to return home, said Neu-Fultz.
Also brought to the attention of the ASYMCA by senior enlisted leaders on base were Marines from other bases involved with Mojave Viper training. They wanted to know if Marines were to get hurt and their units contacted ASYMCA, would they be able to receive help in transporting family members or other financial needs. So the ASYMCA took that into account and decided they could also assist those Marines, said Neu- Fultz.
The program continues to grow, allowing us to succeed in our mission of meeting the needs of service members and their families, said Neu-Fultz.
The plan for the future is to continue meeting those needs and expand on services. The program will continue to do this because people support what the men and women in the military do. They sign up risking their lives to fight for freedom, and donors want to support them, said Neu-Fultz.
“Our young Marines, sailors and family members need to become aware of the program so that no one goes with a need, because they are not aware,” said Ricker. “It’s not asking for a handout, its asking for help in a time of need.”