June 10, 2008

Soldiers', Sailors', Marines', Coast Guard and Airmen's Club: Affordable NYC haven for military

I get a lot of press releases from PR firms representing clients who sell travel-related goods and services. The releases are supposed to entice me to write a newspaper or magazine article about the clients' cruise-resort-book-tour-hotel-luggage-gadget. I delete most of the releases, but every once in a while I get one with information worth passing along.

Here's one about the Soldiers', Sailors', Marines', Coast Guard and Airmen's Club (SSMAC) in New York City. It's a safe, supportive, inexpensive place to stay for members of the military. I've copied the release verbatim below:

"Ask Hazel Cathers, Executive Director of Soldiers', Sailors’, Marines, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club (SSMAC), what her job is all about and why she does it, she will look you straight in the eye, and in a crisp British accent, tell you, “it’s all for the troops.”

In the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, members of the military (both active and veterans) have this place that they can call their own in New York City-and not “break the bank” by staying there. At SSMAC, they can relax among fellow veterans, and open up about the issues that they’re facing-including being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

You might meet a soldier, standing the outside in the middle of a summer heat wave, commenting on the cool weather (he might have just returned from Iraq.) Or you might meet a wounded warrior who is being befriended by SSMAC volunteers and being shown a night on the town.

Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard and Airmen’s Club (
http://www.ssmaclub.org/) is a unique American institution. Founded by General Pershing specifically for returning World War 1 veterans, SSMAC, a nonprofit club, is the only private organization in the United States to provide safe, reasonably-priced accommodations to those who serve or have served their country and their families. (SSMAC is not affiliated with the federal government and receives no grants or subsidies and is supported solely through tax-deductible individual donations.)

Recently, appointed to her new job, Hazel Cathers, who formerly served as USO of Metropolitan New York Program Director and Interim Executive Director, feels that it’s extremely important to consider the emotional needs of the troops when they’re way from home, as well as the creature comforts of a nice place to stay. She explains that when there was a draft, everyone knew someone in the service, whether it be a father, brother or a friend. With a volunteer military, even in a time of war such as now, that personal connection is sometimes more distant, making it harder for the public to understand the challenges faced by the troops.

Organizations such as SSMAC keep the needs of the military (and their families) uppermost on their agendas. As an example, SSMAC is very visible in the wounded warrior movement and has become a “home” to wounded warriors who participate in athletic events, such as the New York Marathon. It also recently hosted members of the TAPS program (Tragedy Assistance Program) for families of those killed in combat in Iraq.

Because of the reasonable rates that are charged (approximately $47 per night), military members on leave who come to the hub of New York City can afford to bring their families to SSMAC, thus not wasting valuable travelling time. While you’re more likely to hear HOORAH at SSMAC, you may also hear the laughter of children having a reunion with a parent.

We would be delighted to have you visit SSMAC so you can see first-hand what a tremendous service it offers to the troops and their families. Thank you for your consideration.

I have a few trips to New York City planned, so maybe I'll stop in and see the club. Sounds like a great place.

Please pass this post along to any servicemen and women you know who might enjoy visiting the Big Apple.