- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ever since the Civil War, the YMCA volunteers have have come to the aid of not just our troops, but also the loved ones they leave behind once deployed to foreign lands. While the Armed Services YMCA’s basic tenets of providing Christian comfort remains strong today, its volunteer programs have grown to meet the needs of an all-volunteer military whose service personnel include not just dads, but moms as well. Its programs are truly focused on the family.

At its 20th annual recognition luncheon on Thursday, the Armed Services YMCA handed out 37 awards, and the majority (26) were scholarships for children entered in the art and essay contest. Another winner was Volunteer of the Year Moses Robbins for his work with the popular Backdoor Boutique, which provides low-price shopping (including toys, household goods and clothing) for junior enlisted families, who often cannot afford to pay retail prices. In addition to the non-profit organization Mr. Robbins runs in the D.C. area that provides clothes to the needy, Mr. Robbins delivers clothing to the Backdoor Boutique every six weeks. The Best New Program winner was “Operation Childwatch,” is a child-care program that also counsels military families on staying healthy and on such emotional issues as deployment.

The list of people and programs that makes the Armed Services YMCA so successful is far too long to detail here. Suffice it to say, but its programs and services literally run the gamut — from social service and health care, to counseling children and spouses of deployed servicemen and women.

Every man and woman in uniform — as well as veterans — need our support, as do the men, women and children who remain at home as our brave soldiers fight to protect our nation. We congratulate the ASYMCA, along with those honored last week, for being all about the troops and their families for so many, many years. Its motto could well be “Ask not what our soldiers can do for you, but what you can do for our soldiers.” (Visit asymca.org.)

The Armed Services Young Men’s Christian Association dates back to the Civil War, when several volunteers ventured to camps to offer aid to soldiers. The movement spread quickly across the country and became the first large-scale civilian volunteer service corps, known then as the U.S. Christian Coalition. Over the next 100 years, the volunteer efforts of the coalition grew; they teamed up with other volunteer groups to create the United Service Organization, or USO, for National Defense. In 1957, the name was changed to the YMCA Armed Services Department, and, in 1980 they were asked by the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services to open the Military Family Resource Center, a kind of national headquarters. In 1984, the Armed Services YMCA was “officially established” and is a permanent part of the Defense Department.

On Thursday, at the ASYMCA luncheon to honor exceptional volunteers, sponsors and supporters, Executive Director Frank Gallo, a retired rear admiral, presented the Military Family Congressional Champion of the Year Award to Rep. John Carter of Texas. Mr. Gallo said that the congressman “has routinely authored and supported legislation to support the military and their families.” In 2006, Mr. Carter pioneered the Military Spouses Employment Act, which increased the tax incentives for employers to hire military spouses.

The work by the Armed Services YMCA and the individuals who make it happen are a small but gold-plated measure of support for our troops. That the support is family focused is, like the life-and-death missions by our soldiers, truly honorable. Thank you all for jobs well done.

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