Move Home for Deployment, Get Free YMCA


When military spouses ask me what I think about moving home during deployment, I tell them there are pros and cons. The support of immediate family (if you like them) can be invaluable, but then again the grating presence of your mother-in-law might just drive you crazy. You may love going at will to your favorite local comfort food joint, but you are missing out on all the deployment services catered to you that would be offered on base — if you lived there.

But one program means you may not be missing out on quite as much as you could be. And the Defense Department just decided to keep it around for another year.

If you live away from your spouse’s assigned duty station during a deployment (whether or not you actually move home) or are deployed Guard or Reserve, you qualify for the DoD’s free YMCA membership program. Those whose spouses are stationed independently (example: as a recruiter) can also use the program, but must be 10 miles away from the closest base.



The program, which costs almost $7 million a year to run, lets those geographically dispersed spouses and family members receive a membership to their local YMCA at no cost. All you have to do is make sure your Y is participating, use this form, and start enjoying the YMCA. Boom.

Since the program started in 2008, over 85,000 memberships have been given to qualify families. The program also covered active duty deployed families stationed at some installation in 2009, but that portion was discontinued in 2010 due to cost.

For more on military discounts, visit the discounts channel.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • Charity

    this was the best thing ever! I love the Y. The program really helped me find friends and develop a sense of community when I moved. Love it!

  • Michelle

    While I’m all for more benefits and I think this is a great idea, this is $7 million that could be better spent! Do I need the military to pay for a YMCA membership if I CHOOSE not to live where my spouse is stationed? I think it’s fine for recruiters, they should have paid access to workout facilities if not near a base. But to go there as a spouse and socialize on my elliptical…um, I can pay for that if that is what I choose. The DOD complains about a lack of funds to support vital needs and entitlements… then they fund this. Sigh.

    • guest

      I was suffering with severe depression, which affected every aspect of my life. The YMCA did more than simply provide me a place to socialize on the elliptical. It gave me a support network when I needed it so that I could, with the aid of therapy and medication, get back to a good place. It helped me get my health and weight back under control, which is a major benefit because fewer health problems among military spouses means less money spent on medical care in the DoD budget.
      I needed the community provided by the Y, because I needed people who could be supportive and not judgmental as I tried to find my way back from being suicidal, so no I don’t think the money could be spent better elsewhere.
      And now that my husband has arrived here, we pay for our Y membership and help sponsor those who are less fortunate in our community so they have the same opportunity I had. It’s unfortunate that you cannot see the links between the extreme stress from the past 13 years of high OPTEMPO and depression, and the role exercise plays in relieving this stress and alleviating depression.
      I am very grateful for this program and for what it did for me when I needed it.

    • Guest

      “… if I CHOOSE not to live where my spouse is stationed?”

      Or if you have to go back to your parents’ house when your spouse deploys due to lack of a support system, and they’re not near a base. Or if you’re one of our thousands and thousands of Guard or Reserve spouses who don’t live anywhere near a base and whose husband or wife has deployed. Or you’re one of our Wounded Warriors who doesn’t live near an insallation or Transition Unit. Or you’re the caregiver of a Wounded Warrior at one of the recovery centers (ie Bethesda) and you need to go to a medical appointment with your spouse, but need respite care for your children to do so.

      Considering what a drop in the bucket $7 million is in the DoD budget, when taking into account the number of people they serve I’d say it’s one of the best fiscally run programs they have. But you go right ahead and keep thinking that it’s just spouses socializing on their ellipticals.

      • guest


  • guest

    Beware read the fine print- because of the way I was described the way the program works by the YMCA representative (it was new to her too) we lost our membership. You have to use it a certain # of times in a certain period and get signatures from you husbands commander etc… jumping through hoops usual government paperwork wouldn’t expect anything less except you’d think they would train someone to explain the info to the YMCA personal. Long story short after our first 6 months we lost our membership the YMCA was rude told we should just pay them because we shouldn’t of had it in the first place. My Husband was active duty in St. Louis we were stationed 60 miles from from the nearest base (Scott AFB) and his actual commander was at the Pentagon. I also know of one spouse whose husband was deployed for a 360 who had the same problem here. She is the one who could have benefited the most from this. Anyways it is not all rainbows and sunshine to get sometimes, just my opinion. Glad it works for some.

    • guest

      Yes, you have to use it a total of 8 times per month.

  • Bill

    Makes me wonder if this is another program that the military is paying for and the funds ($7 mil) are not being properly utilized or monitored.