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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — When Petty Officer 1st Class Richard StoneKing needed help most, the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society was there to offer hope, he said.

In 1994, while at recruit training, StoneKing received devastating news: His firstborn died during delivery.

"I was expecting to hear about a birth and instead I am told about a death," he told a group gathered Wednesday at Camp Foster to kick off the society’s annual drive.

As he and his wife dealt with the grief of losing their son, they also struggled to find a way to pay for their baby’s funeral.

"I didn’t know what to do," the Camp Hansen chaplain’s aide said.

That’s when the society stepped in and gave him the $2,000 needed for a headstone, casket and other funeral costs, he said.

StoneKing’s is one of many stories about how the society has helped Marines and sailors in its 105-year history, said Lt. Col. Robert Krieg, the Corps’ fund-drive coordinator for Okinawa. The Marines kicked off their annual fund drive here Wednesday.

The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society is a private, nonprofit organization that provides interest-free loans, scholarships, grants, visiting-nurse services and other support. It’s funded entirely through donations.

Krieg said last year’s drive by Japan-based Marines raised more than $309,000. But the global society gave back more than that, providing more than $950,000 to more than 1,270 servicemembers here, mostly for interest-free loans, he added.

The society provided more than $1,515,000 in financial support last year to sailors on mainland Japan, Guam and South Korea, according to Chief Petty Officer Gregory Briggs, this year’s Commander Naval Forces Japan fund-drive chairman.

Japan fund driveCommander Naval Forces Japan will begin its fund drive Sunday, Briggs said. It will run through March 31.

Donations can be made through unit representatives or by visiting the society’s Web site at www.nmcrs.org.


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