What started as a call to comfort the wounded during the Civil War has evolved into a movement to "Strengthen Our Military Family®" every single day.
The proud heritage of the Armed Services YMCA begins in April 1861 when YMCA volunteers provided relief and comfort to sick and injured Civil War soldiers. Initially, the volunteers handed out coffee, held hands in medical tents and helped to write letters at military encampments. But shortly after, the volunteers braved the danger of the battlefields and delivered services to the soldiers on the front lines.
News of these selfless and courageous actions spread quickly, and the number of volunteers increased dramatically. Within seven months, the movement turned into the first large-scale civilian volunteer service corps.
Representatives of 15 YMCAs joined forces to coordinate the relief efforts and formed the United States Christian Commission, whose purpose was to provide spiritual and physical comfort to soldiers, and today’s Armed Services YMCA was born.
President Abraham Lincoln took notice and responded to a letter by Chair Reverend George H. Stuart on December 12, 1861. The President wrote the “benevolent undertaking for the benefit of the soldiers” was both “proper and praiseworthy.” He concluded with, “I sincerely hope your plan may be as successful in execution, as it is just and generous in conception.”