Are You an Active-Duty Sailor or Marine? Join the 2019 Active-Duty Fund Drive

Our History

Purpose and philosophy

The Society provides financial assistance and education, as well as other programs and services, to members of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, their eligible family members, widows, and survivors. The Society also receives and manages donated funds to administer these programs and services.

Our main goal is to help each person who comes to us get support for their immediate needs. Our long-term mission is to help Sailors and Marines become financially self-sufficient by learning how to better manage their personal finances and prepare for unplanned expenses.

Serving Sailors and Marines for over a century

The need for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society was recognized long before it was organized. Our newly formed nation couldn’t afford to provide a benefits package for its armed forces. There were no medical benefits for service families, no retirement annuities or survivors’ benefits for families of deceased personnel. Sailors and Marines would “pass the hat” to collect funds to help their shipmate’s widows and orphans.

Meeting the financial needs of widows, orphans, and more

In 1904, several Naval officers, wives of Naval officers, and civilian friends saw the need for more formal and organized assistance. The Society was incorporated on January 23 of that year. Initial funding came from the proceeds of the 1903 Army-Navy Football Game held at Franklin Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In its first year, the Society gave $9,500 to widows and families of enlisted men.

During World War I, military pay days were often delayed. To help cover the gap, the Society began an interest-free loan program for Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Eventually, this financial assistance expanded to help with other needs, such as medical bills.

Anticipating the personal needs of those serving in the U.S. military during World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized a public appeal for support to benefit the military relief associations. This national fundraising effort helped establish the Society’s Reserve Fund in 1942. This fund provides a rainy-day means of support and relief assistance not covered by other revenue streams, especially during catastrophic natural disasters that affect Navy and Marine Corps members and their families.

Helping with the health care needs of Navy and Marine Corps families

By the early 1920s, one of the biggest needs for Society loans and grants was medical expenses for dependents. At the time, the military only provided health care to active duty service members. To help with health care needs of spouses and children, the Society hired its first registered nurse in 1922. She provided in-home nursing assistance and guidance on caring for babies and children. Today, our visiting nurses still make house calls to answer medical questions and visit newborns.

Expanding assistance for financial and healthcare needs

The Society has expanded its financial assistance programs several times to meet new and growing needs. In 1964, the Society began an education assistance program. In the early 1980s, the financial assistance and counseling program was created to help service members better manage their money.

In 2006, the Society expanded the traditional Visiting Nurse Program to include those returning from Iraq with physical injuries and traumatic stress disorders. The Combat Casualty Assistance Visiting Nurse program provides resources and support to Marines and Sailors who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation New Dawn (OND), as well as their loved ones.

Continuing the Legacy

For over a century, the Society has expanded its services and programs to support the changing needs of service members and their families. Yet our support is still provided by people who care about making life better for Sailors and Marines. Some things never change. 

Stay Informed