CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Within the span of two months, Staff Sgt. Kristen Rios was struck with a series of tragedies: her grandfather committed suicide, her grandmother was admitted to a hospital for open-heart surgery and her father was diagnosed with cancer. In addition, her husband was involved in a motorcycle accident rendering him unable to work.
“The events during those two months had a ‘domino effect’ on me and my family,” said Rios, a maintenance management chief with Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “My husband couldn’t work, so we didn’t have the funds to get myself home.”
Fortunately, the financial assistance provided by the Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society helped her get back on track.
“They fixed my vehicle, assisted me with a grant and provided me with a zero-interest loan,” said Rios, a native of Tampa, Fla. “It was everything. Without that help, I wouldn’t have been able to transport my husband to the hospital or visit my family.”
The NMCRS provides a safety-net for Marines in times of emergency and unexpected events by offering zero-interest loans and grants depending on the situation.
“Things happen,” said Rios. “We can’t plan for all the bad things that are going to happen to us. It’s sometimes hard for junior enlisted Marines, without proper planning and financial stability, to pick up the pieces and keep moving.”
This safety net ensures Marines are able to focus on their missions, and alleviates the financial stress they may face at home.
“People matter in our organization,” said Col. Tracy W. King, commanding officer, CLR-15, 1st MLG. “If a Marine isn’t worrying about his house or his family, then he can be 100 percent ready. We are supposed to be America’s force in readiness, ready to fight, any fight, today. [The NMCRS] is one of the tools we can use to ensure our Marines remain combat ready at all times.”
In 2013, more than 600 Marines with CLR-15 sought help from the NMCRS, totaling $372,762 in grants and loans. This is part of the $65.5 million raised throughout the year through loan repayments, contributions, thrift shops and reserve fund withdrawals.
“To me, the [NMCRS] is about keeping faith with our Marines and sailors,” said King, of Oklahoma City. “Just from this regiment, we have benefited from nearly half a million dollars in loans and grants. It’s all about peace of mind, especially when Marines are deployed.”
Despite the large contributions made by the NMCRS, active-duty service members from Camp Pendleton have only contributed $90,000.
The leadership of CLR-15 believes that awareness is important in ensuring the NMCRS can continue helping Marines and sailors in need.
“It’s all about messaging,” said Sgt. Maj. Bernard C. Coleman, sergeant major, CLR-15, 1st MLG. “This is one of those programs which people don’t understand until they’re the ones in need. I have Marines every week that come across crises and get that $500 grant and there are times when they have not donated to the organization before.”
In order to receive grants or loans, service members go through a rigorous screening process to ensure that they are eligible for the monetary assistance that the NMCRS provides.
Ultimately, CLR-15 leaders believe that the NMCRS is an important tool in ensuring both troop welfare and mission accomplishment.
“Troop welfare leads to mission accomplishment,” said Coleman, of Norfolk, Va. “I’ve had several families that were supported by [the NMCRS] while the Marines were forward deployed. Those Marines were fully focused on their missions, and to me, that’s awesome.”
Recently, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, held a base-wide dodgeball tournament on Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 3, 2014. The festive and informative event included Marines from 1st Maintenance Battalion, CLR-15, 1st MLG, and was held as an attempt to raise funds and increase awareness about the NMCRS.
Marines that wish to donate or seek assistance may visit the NMCRS building at E St. & 14th St. Building 1121, Camp Pendleton, Calif., 92055-5006 or visit their website at www.nmcrs.org.