It's the warm welcomes and memories that keep one Navy veteran from South Carolina coming back to New York.
William Anderson, who served in the Korean War, has been visiting the city twice a year since 1968, and he always stays at the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen’s Club (SSMAC) in Murray Hill. This is his 72nd visit.
"It makes you feel like you're back in the Navy again," he says.
Since it was founded in 1919, the club has provided affordable lodging for more than two million veterans and active-duty servicemen, and their families, as they visit or pass through New York. Officials here say the service is especially important to today's servicemen and women.
“They are short of staff and therefore they have very short leaves available to them,” says SSMAC Chairman and World War II Navy veteran Ivan Obolensky. “The problem in having short leaves is simple; they don't have time to see their loved ones."
Staying at the club saves both time and money. Rates are as low as $$20 a-night.
“It's not all that much different from being with their unit, because those of us who work here, the staff people and the guests, we've been through it or are still serving," says SSMAC Executive Director and Vietnam War Air Force veteran Peter LeBeau.
More than just providing lodging, the club unites generations of soldiers.
Army Lieutenant Colonel John Dundas is on active duty in Connecticut says he came to SSMAC, “Knowing there are people here who will appreciate or at least understand how to be empathetic to what I was feeling arriving in a huge city like New York, and spoke my language."
"It's a lot of fun to go, and it’s a lot of fun to go back,” says Anderson. “People miss you after a while, and I miss them."
So, for providing a place where they can be at ease, the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen’s Club is our New Yorker of the Week.
The SSMAC serves both men and women and has a 70-bed occupancy. The group does not receive federal, state or city funding. It relies on fundraisers as well as corporate and individual sponsors for funding.
For more information on the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen’s Club, call 1-800-678-8443, or visit www.ssmaclub.org
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