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CAMP LESTER, Okinawa — With the annual Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Fund Drive reaching the halfway point, the organization is well on its way to reaching its $380,000 goal, according to the fund drive coordinator.

With nearly $260,000 raised in four weeks, Lt. Cmdr. Tom DeLucia said officials are “on track to meet or exceed our goal.”

The NMCRS provides financial assistance to sailors and Marines, including budget counseling, post-secondary education scholarships, and grants or loans for dependents of active-duty and retired Navy and Marine Corps servicemembers. The organization also gives away “junior sea bags” — layettes — to new parents.

Last year on Okinawa, 454 loans and grants totaling $502,744 were given out. More than $64,000 was distributed for spousal tuition assistance. Officials said a majority of the loans and grants provided financial relief during emergencies.

One sailor at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa said he used the service in a time of need early in his career.

When Lt. j.g. Scott Weidner, the hospital’s NMCRS Fund Drive chairman, was a third class petty officer, his grandfather passed away. When he realized he couldn’t afford to attend the funeral, he turned to the society for help, which he credits with not only allowing him to say goodbye to his grandfather, but with changing his life.

“My father and I never really saw eye-to-eye on most things and we had never talked much,” Weidner said. “I can’t really put it into words, but I think when my father saw me in uniform saluting his father during the military funeral, something changed in the way saw me. I think from that moment, he saw me not as his trouble-making oldest son, but as a military man proudly serving his country.”

Weidner said NMCRS changed his life because by attending that funeral, he realized he wasn’t going to live forever and there was so much he wanted to do and learn. He became the first person in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree, and later a master’s.

“I know it sounds corny, but the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society literally changed my life,” he said. “The very existence of an organization that is there to help no one except sailors and Marines shows that the Navy and Marine Corps team is still protecting its own. No system is perfect, and when someone slips though the cracks and doesn’t get paid or needs emergency money, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society is there to act as a safety net.”

For more information about the 2005 fund drive, contact Lt. Cmdr. Tom DeLucia at deluciatp@oki10.med.navy.mil, or e-mail NavyMarineRelief@ hotmail.com.


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