*This is the fifth piece in a running series highlighting the YMCA’s support for the Armed Services throughout our history.
Just a few short years after the YMCA stepped in to fulfill the needs of the services in place of the USO; the USO was reactivated to support the services in the Korean War. Once again the YMCA became the USO’s primary operating agency, which continued through the Vietnam conflict and into the 1970s.
By the mid-1970s the YMCA determined that its work with the USO had been successfully completed and it was time to resume delivering direct services to the military through its own Armed Services Department. The USO asked the YMCA to assume responsibility for 12 centers in the US. The YMCA agreed and added those sites to the Armed Services Department at the beginning of 1977. The establishment of all-volunteer Armed Forces after the Vietnam conflict along with the increase of young families in the military created new demands for organizations serving the military, demands that the YMCA worked to meet.
In January of 1984, after a period of review, the YMCA’s Armed Services Department was reorganized as the Armed Services YMCA of the USA and chartered as a National Member Association. This changed shifted control over direct programming from the national headquarters to local member associations, allowing for greater flexibility in responding to the needs at a local level. The headquarters of the ASYMCA was also moved to the Washington, D.C. to help with communication between the YMCA and military leadership.
Today the Armed Services YMCA continues to serve service members and military families by operating its own network of Armed Services YMCA branches, as well as providing funding to community YMCAs and Department of Defense affiliates to provide services and programs for military families.